How often have we referred to or heard our patients being referred to by their condition, such as ‘The Appendix in Bed 1’? Is it that we are so busy and have so many people to care for and interact with that we simply don’t know who the person is beyond the reason they are in hospital?
Recently a colleague was sharing her own personal experience of this. My colleague was the patient and from behind the curtain she could hear the nurse refer to her as the condition she presented with. My colleague addressed this at the time with the nurse, who was very apologetic and I am sure learned a lot from my colleague speaking out.
What is it that results in nurses speaking about someone in such a way?
Sometimes we are so busy that we really don’t even have time to sit down. But can we be busy and have a lot to do in our day and still connect with our patients?
I have often observed in my own practice, whether working in a hospital or community environment that when I do connect with the patients in my care, that my day runs much more smoothly, the patients are not needy, meaning that they have no demands of me other than what is required and I have the space to complete everything I need to. On the opposite side of the fence when I focus on all that I need to do without connecting to the patients in my care, the day often runs away with me and I feel over-stretched.
I recall an example where the morning shift I was working on began two staff members down, so it started with 3 nurses. I recall saying to my colleagues, ‘We are going to have a busy day and that’s okay, but let’s not get caught in that, let’s continue to simply enjoy the way we work together and the people we are looking after.’ It felt important to say this as I could feel my colleagues revving up for a busy morning. Therefore, it felt important to offer the team a stop so we didn’t go into automatic pilot of getting things done. We worked hard that particular shift, but we worked together and we worked with all of our patients, connecting to each and every one of them. They knew how busy we were, but that wasn’t of focus. The patients remained our focus and they very much felt that.
Connecting with our patients does not take any time and it is the foundation of both our nursing practice and true nurturing care. It makes a world of difference to our patients who are in an environment full of people they do not know and who may be frightened about why they are in hospital. For us as nurses this builds on the quality of our work because our focus is greater than the tasks needed to complete.
When we consider that nursing is all about people, it makes sense that we honour our connections with patients as well as our colleagues, no matter what our workplace environment is.