Perspective can be an interesting thing. Sometimes, stepping away from something for a while can help us to see it through fresh eyes. About a year ago, I made a temporary move from visit nursing to take on more of an administrative role with my employer. After 12 months away from the job I had been doing for so many years, I made my return to visit nursing with a refreshed perspective.
After my return, it didn’t take long to notice a troubling pattern in my conversations with patients and their families. A number of people were describing experiences in which their nurses had clearly lost (or were in the process of losing) their focus on the patient.
The last thing I want is for this to sound preachy. Many (if not all) of us are in the same boat. Busier workloads. Long shifts. Having to string together multiple part-time jobs. The realities of budget cuts and how they trickle down to the bedside. In all honesty, these conversations were probably happening before and I was just too busy or preoccupied to hear what they were saying.
We know from our research that the vast majority of nurses got into the profession to take care of people. But when so many organizations are short-staffed and so many nurses are stressed out and burned out, we can lose that focus on putting patients and their families first. It happens little by little until one day, the nurse finds themselves caring for ‘the hole in the person’ rather than caring for ‘the whole person’.
We’re all busy. But we should all make the effort to take a few minutes to engage with our patients as people and listen to what they have to say. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve started to hear about some of these experiences is because I’m trying to make a renewed effort to have those conversations myself.
We can’t do much to impact the macro situation in health care in Ontario. But let’s challenge ourselves to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make our patients our top priority. It’s the little things that make a difference. Chatting with them. Asking about their appetite. Listening to them. If all of us did that, what a marvelous, positive impact we’d have in the lives of thousands of people.
President, BOD, RPNAO