By Susan Edstrom, MS, BSN, RN, Consultant, Creative Health Care Management
I remember vividly my first experience as a patient at age 14, hospitalized for surgery to remove a lump in my breast—I was terrified! Years later, I still remember how I felt with one particular nurse. I don’t recall her name, but I remember her eyes. She saw my fear, and the way she looked at me let me know that everything would be OK. She always knew how to calm me; she allowed me to feel safe and cared for.
She is the reason I became a nurse.
I’ve heard similar stories over the years as I facilitate the three-day program Re-Igniting the Spirit of Caring (RSC). I believe most people working in healthcare are there because they want to help others. In today’s chaotic, task-driven healthcare environments, many staff members are disengaged and suffering from varying degrees of compassion fatigue. I believe this is because people have lost their connection to the core purpose of the work they do. The science of caring is as important to patients as the technical and clinical knowledge and skills we bring. After listening to countless patients relate their personal hospital experiences during the RSC program, not one has reported that a caregiver’s clinical skills are what were most important. In their minds, those skills were a given, and it was the acts of caring that were most important in creating a positive experience for them. Compassionate care promotes healing and helps people feel safe and cope with their illness. Caring is not a “soft skill” and it’s far from optional; it’s what patients tell us they want most.
In my work as a facilitator of RSC, I’ve discovered several practical things that all caregivers can do to reconnect or connect more deeply with their purpose:
These are some simple practices that any caregiver can integrate into daily practice in order to help reconnect with the meaning and purpose of caring. The impact they have in helping to create a positive patient/family experience will help facilitate healing, positively influence the patient’s experience, and help keep caregivers focused on what matters most.
Susan knows how important that commitment to caregiving is; she’s a nurse with more than 30 years of experience as a staff nurse, nurse practitioner, educator, and health care leader. She has a BSN and MS in public health from the University of Minnesota. While she’s no longer providing direct care to patients herself, her goal in her role as a consultant at Creative Health Care Management is to re-ignite a passion for caring in those who do.
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