I believe that a person’s ideas can change once they have walked in the footsteps of another. In nursing I have patients who are hurting, who have emotional issues and family issues, and who just need to talk and let it all out. They want me to understand what they are going through and offer some words of advice or encouragement. I am able to do this, to encourage, to offer advice, however sometimes it lacks feeling and empathy. Sometimes in nursing you hit a point where you emotionally shut yourself out of others lives in order to save your own emotions. A day in the life of a nurse is too emotional to not shut some things out. So how can one really, truly feel empathy for another, for a patient?
This week my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. During the delivery, the father of the baby passed out and suffered a severe concussion which rendered his memory completely blank. He could not remember a single thing that happened the day of his daughter’s birth. How sad to sit there in the ICU and see him so confused, and so lost, with my sister there beside him, two hours after delivering a baby. This day is supposed to be one of joy, not of suffering. In this situation, when someone you care about is suffering, it is hard to suppress that emotion that is so easy to hide with your patients.
This situation made me think about my patients, the ones who are confused and disoriented, who may not remember their own names or where they are. Sometimes it is so easy to become short with them, to become angry that they won’t stay in bed or take their medications. However, now that I have witnessed my own emotional response to a confused family member, it has opened my eyes. With these patients and their families I am able to empathize and feel that emotion. I know that the one thing they need is to be together and to make sense of what is going on, even if this means bending some of the rules. I hope that as I become a nurse I will remember the day I walked in the footsteps of the confused patient and his or her family members. I hope I will remember to be patient and kind, to take time to answer questions, and to offer my own emotional support as we work to find those lost memories, and return that person to the life they once had.
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