- Posted by Emma Walsh
- On 26th September 2018
- 0 Comments
- dublin, dublin hospital, general nursing, hospital, ireland, mater private hospital, medical, medicine, nursing
In medical school you learn about lots of things. Things like systems, and how they work. The cardiovascular system…the endocrine system…the digestive system…the sitting up all night studying and getting absolutely no sleep for a solid five years system. Systems, everywhere you turn. By the time you finish your schooling you know pretty much everything there is to know about the human body. And the bits you don’t know, you’re going to find out along the way because you are a biomedical detective ninja science MASTER (a.k.a. massive nerd) and it’s just what you do.
From grasping the basics of anatomy (it’s all ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ really), to deep-dive explorations into anatomical pathologies, you know what to look out for and how to treat hordes of ailments, diseases and syndromes as soon as they rear their ugly heads. You’re in the game of studying the human body.
But what about the patient, the person, attached to the body you’re treating? Nurses are renowned the world over for possessing some of the most caring characteristics imaginable. Characteristics they can’t teach you in medical school. We’re talking buckets of empathy, overwhelming levels of compassion and a God-given talent to understand and respect everyone and anyone that may walk through the door at any particular time. But a superhuman capacity to connect and communicate doesn’t necessarily make dealing with patients a cake-walk. You know this as well as anyone.
Before you even get to the medical stuff – the blood and guts, your bread and butter, the bit that makes your heart skip and your mind fizz with fascination – you have to spend some time stealthily digging around and hanging about in the frontal lobe of the physical person sitting before you. In other words, you’ve got to investigate, watch, listen and study their actions, movements, behaviour and emotions. And really, it’s a good thing stealth comes so easily to you and your ninja ways because discretion is of utmost importance at this juncture.
Patients are vulnerable. And patients are out of their depth. Sometimes they are forgetful (who can remember ALL the medications they’ve taken in the last five years), sometimes they are careful (Umm, smoke? Oh, just a couple a week…what’s a few cigarettes between friends…), but mostly, they are scared. They can be scared for lots of reasons – fear of needles, fear of freezing cold stethoscopes and bony doctor’s fingers, fear of disease, fear of bad news, fear of having to make changes, fear of being judged, fear of the unknown… Many times they’re afraid because they know deep down that something isn’t quite right and maybe, just maybe if they’d paid more attention sooner, they wouldn’t be here, with you, now.
This vulnerability and fear can sometimes affect how a patient communicates with medical professionals. As a nurse, you will often be the first person in the field that they will interact with. And the outcome of this interaction has the potential to impact how they navigate the process and seek guidance around further testing and treatment options thereafter. It’s a big responsibility alright. So again, it’s lucky you possess compassion so intense and tact so powerful it could softly and comfortably bring the world to its knees.
It may not always be front of mind, but these skills are incredibly important tools to have in your arsenal. The power of strong communication coupled with mutual respect and understanding can frequently set the wheels of the medical investigation vehicle in motion. If a patient feels comfortable in your care, believing they can open up without fear of judgement or scrutiny, they will, quite simply, talk more, tell you more, ‘confess’ more.
If you can build a solid foundation like this, based on trust and care, the knock-on effects will ripple through their entire experience in wonderful ways you can’t even imagine. And at the end of the day, patient care and your patient’s happiness is what it’s all about. You are the gatekeeper and you are the first face they see. It is a daunting, but beautiful responsibility, and you’ve got this in the bag.