nurse patient reationship, elderly careThis nurse-patient relationship article was inspired when I, as an RN, recently spent four days in the hospital as a caregiver. It was for a family member who was delirious and unable to speak for himself. It was there when I realized how important the ability to be present and care is.

This ability is actually one of my favorite topics. It is what I believe to be one of the most important roles a nurse provides. Yet, as insurances demand more for less and technology advances us further into a digital age, the art of being present has all become a lost art. This is unfortunate, because based on my experience it spells the difference when dealing with elderly patients.

So how can you practice that ability and strengthen a nurse-patient relationship? You can begin by trying to understand your elderly patient more and reviewing this list of things he or she might want to say to you right now:

  1. I do not need you to be perfect. I need to know I can rely on you.

  2. You do not have to always be in a good mood. I may even be able to help you feel grateful. After all, you get to go home at the end of the shift!

  3. I do not need you to feel my pain. I just want you to understand what I feel.

  4. I do not need you to talk all of the time. I just need you to look, listen and be aware with me/for me. 

  5. I do not need you to talk real loud. I may be slow, sleepy or disoriented, but a gentle touch and a smile speak louder than any words.

  6. It doesn’t matter if you were at the top of your class, just as long as you are at the top of your game with all my orders, medications, and treatments.

  7. It doesn’t matter what you look like, just as long as you like what you see when you look at you. This way, I can be assured you will see me.

  8. It does matter if you eat lunch or take a break. I want you to stay tuned in to what I may need. Please take care of yourself so you can take care of me.

  9. I know my condition may be serious but you do not have to be. Let’s take a walk on the lighter side of life, just for a moment.

  10. I may be old, out of touch, out of reach and even on death’s door, but I hope you will appreciate the gift of life regardless of how fragile. This fulfills my purpose in your presence.

To be present is to be aware. To be aware is to be mindful. Being mindful implies that you are still, your internal dialogue is quiet and you are present to see what is not completely obvious or expected. In this brief space of being present, this awareness provides inspiration as much as information.

Nursing is a stressful profession. Letting go of distractions in a mind gone wild is part of an effective stress management strategy. Mindfulness is being aware in the moment and as you make your rounds, as you go into the room and greet the patient, let your multi-tasking slip away, if only for just a few moments. Simply be present with that patient.

Remembering these 10 thoughts is a sure way to improve nurse-patient relationships. It only takes two to three minutes to be present, to acknowledge the elderly patient, and observe. As you continue to do what you came in to do, let your observations sink in and take note. Take a deep breath and know that you made a difference in your ability to be with that patient, if even for a moment.