As a nurse, it is crucial that you can recognize and validate patients’ fears, anxieties, pain and worries. Empathy allows you to understand patients’ feelings and facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment. Having the skill to understand patients from their point of view is a powerful soft skill for a nurse. However, it is more than a clinical diagnosis and treatment. It is a connection to mind, body and soul.
Why It Matters
The empathetic response helps nurses alleviate suffering and build trusting relationships with those in their care, ensuring their safety, outcomes and compliance. It is essential for growth, well-being, teamwork and collaboration skills. Nurses who show empathy have more profound job satisfaction and experience less stress and burnout. It is essential for nurses’ relationships with patients as it improves performance in these areas:
- Establishing respect
- Encouraging positive behavior
- Making decisions
- Gathering medical history
- Accurate medication administration
Empathetic nurses better understand patient needs and have the ability to ease concerns. Patients tend to have better outcomes with compassionate care. When nurses lack empathy, it negatively impacts patient care and treatment is less effective. Patients feel frustrated, neglected and confused.
How to Display Empathy As a Nurse
Displaying empathy can be a challenge. It can be a barrier to nursing communication. There is usually a high number of patients, a short time allotted for each patient, and a lack of proper education in empathy. However, patients appreciate what you say and do, and they also appreciate the way you say and do it. Here are suggestions for compassion:
- Make eye contact. Eye contact is essential for making a connection. Look up when asking questions. If you are looking at a computer screen, continue commenting to show you are not distracted and explain why you are using the computer.
- Let the patient know you are listening. Please give them a nod or paraphrase what you hear them saying to show them that you hear and understand.
- Mind your body language. Do you find yourself asking questions with your hand on the doorknob? Maybe fold your arms across your body? Sit down. It does not take extra time, and when you sit down and listen, you show that you care about what the patient has to say.
- Be curious. Ask questions to understand more than just the presenting issue. Ask patients how symptoms affect their lives because it will make them feel heard and cared for while allowing you a glimpse of the big picture.
- Humanize patients. Go beyond checking off boxes on the electronic medical record. Consider what is impacting their lives now. Your patient will feel connected when you ask them about their life.
- Show support. Recognize how the patient feels and acknowledge the fears and anger. Respond to their emotional and medical needs.
- Find profound ways to connect. Listen to a patient’s story and identify common ground.
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