I have been in nursing for many years now and every day still brings a new opportunity for me to learn something from my patients. Even the ones who are difficult, argue with me and even call me a few names I will not repeat here, still taught me a lesson or two about life, how to communicate and what empathy really means in a nursing relationship.
Patients also share and taught us lessons that may seem simple but when you realize it, you understand them closely, you might agree with me. Here are my top five things I learned from my patients:
- Patience. I learned very early on, when I was a nursing assistant, that patience is a must in this business. When someone is sick, there is no rushing them. You can’t say “Hurry up, I got work to do.” Although sometimes we would like to say this, remember, nursing is a service profession, not an assembly line.
- Communication. I’ve learned good nursing communication skills. When I first started my nursing career way back when, I was young, an introvert who lack the social skills that seem to come easy to some people. But over time I came out of my shell. I learned what worked and what didn’t. My advice here about good communication skills is to be a great listener first.
- Empathy. Not that I was ever apathetic but I don’t think I understood what empathy truly meant. It wasn’t until I started working with oncology patients that I understood what it meant to share in another human beings thoughts and feelings of life and death.
- History. I meet fascinating people who tell stories of how the town that I live in used to be. I’m a history buff, so I love getting a history lesson. I’ve learned so much about this area that my husband is amazed at what I know since I did not grow up here.
- Family. I always remember what a patient said to me when I was a young nursing student - “Stay close to your family, you may need them someday.” She had one child, a daughter that she wasn’t close to. The patient wanted to go home but she couldn’t care for herself and her daughter did not want to take her mother to her home to care for her, so unfortunately, the patient went to a nursing home. The worst thing about it is that this patient had no idea her daughter did not want to take care of her. I can’t count how many times this situation has happened since.
What I’ve learned from this is that not everyone in the family is a caregiver or wants to be a caregiver, but we can start a conversation about what our loved ones want in the event they can’t take care of themselves. It’s better to find this information out before crisis hits, that way you at least know what to expect from whom.
Nursing relationships has taught me a lot and up to this day, I still continue to learn from my patients. There are never dull moments and I always learn new, interesting and sometimes amazing things that my patients continue to teach me.