Empathy check.

“They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel.”-Maya Angelou

Empathy check time.

I do like to joke about my experiences in the hospital but it’s nice to get an empathy check every now and then.

We have a very tough, emotional job and it can be very draining. Our lives are stressful and often times it feels like we’re just stretched too thin.

Death, sickness, mental illnesses, doctors, managers, protocols, meetings, projects, charting, co-workers, unions, money, kids, holidays, marriages…The list goes on.

Empathy tends to get forgotten in this jumbled mess, but it still remains our most valuable tool. Putting ourselves in our patients’ shoes is something that we’re excellent at. Simply stopping and thinking, “How would I want to be treated?” can change how we treat that grin-and-bear-it type patient. Thinking of patients as ‘real’ people also puts it in perspective. This is someone’s best friend, mother, sister, son, father, brother, daughter.

I became a nurse because my mom died from breast cancer over 5 years ago. I found out the same week that I was pregnant with my first child and that my mom had cancer. Tough week. I was 6 months pregnant when she passed away. When she passed away, I wasn’t even in nursing school yet. Whenever I think back on her illness and death, two things stand out.

First thought that comes to mind is how ignorant I was of death. I honestly did NOT think my mom was going to die.

Think about that.

I thought my mom, a living, human being wouldn’t die. How could she?! She was my mom. Mom’s don’t die this young, especially my mom. Her death has made me realize the gift of life and has honestly changed me, down to my core. I, now do things I never would’ve done 6 or 7 years ago. I felt like I was searching for answers that I could never find, only to find out that I had them all along.

My second thought is about a nurse that cared for my mom in the hospital before she was sent to hospice. She was an older nurse and she was awesome. We noticed she worked a different shift. After the 3rd day we asked her why she came in so early and she informed us that she didn’t want to go to 12 hour shifts like everyone else. She said that she was ready to retire if they couldn’t work her schedule out. The hospital of course worked it, since she was so valued.

She was the most caring person I’ve ever met in my life. I remember her always fixing my mom’s sheets and repositioning her. Always talking to her, even when she wasn’t coherent. I remember her always being honest with us and letting us know everything that she knew about my mom’s condition or what the doctors said. She showed us so much compassion and empathy that it changed my life. And now, we get to change lives!

So let’s remember: Every single patient that we see is affected by us and how we treat them.

Empathy?! CHECK!

Now that’s simply fabulous.

 

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linda Durgeloh Williams
    Nov 27, 2011 @ 20:56:46

    Oh my God Kellie-you made me shed a few. Your mom was an amazing woman and I’m so sad she left us way to soon, she would be so very proud of u as a nurse and the person u have become. I’m sure you are an excellent nurse! (mother, friend and wife also) Thanks so much for sharing this!!

    Reply

  2. midwifesjourney
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 18:43:17

    There is nothing more valuable to a family going through a difficult time medically than an empathetic nurse. I know there have been a few situations in my life where I’ve wished for one instead of the crabby robots I seem to always run into. Thank you for being a nurse who is full of humor and caring, I’m sure every one of your patients benefits greatly from it!!

    Reply

  3. Teena Lovern
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 17:11:10

    fabulous, indeed!

    Reply

  4. Gerri
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 17:26:05

    So touching Kellie, thank you for sharing. I know she was a great person, just by knowing you.

    Reply

  5. princesagr
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 06:32:02

    Such a moving input.
    I m sorry to hear that your mom passed away. Luckily, I have both my parents alive, but I almost lost my father and brother.
    Father from a tumor IN the heart (rare condition, rare surgery) and my brother from a car accident.
    Both are fine now.

    You can cherish the moments you have together, and value your life, as you do.

    Reply

    • fabulousrn
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 10:03:58

      Thanks for your kind words princesagr, I’m so happy to hear that you still have your loved ones! Its scary to be on the edge of loss. I love to hear people coming through tough times with stronger hearts!

      Reply

  6. kim maddox
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 09:03:37

    I became a nurse because it was time for me to grow up and stop working in record stores and bars. I had no idea what I was getting into. I love hearing about how people get into our professions. I thought I was getting a job. I had no idea that nursing would take all of my questions and confusion and make things so clear. Nursing has given me a view of life very few people have. We are the lucky ones.

    I am so sorry about your mother. My losses came after I’d been a nurse for years. I wasn’t able to be home with them while they were sick, which made me sad for the longest time. Now, it seems that it’s better this way. i can still go to work each day and do my job, take care of my patients without those memories.

    Reply

    • fabulousrn
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 10:13:52

      Oh thank you for your kind words Kim! It really means a lot to me! I’m so glad that you found your calling in life and you vision became clear! I never thought I’d be a person to say ‘I’d found my calling’ or ‘I was meant to do this’ or even ‘There’s a purpose in my life’ but its so fulling to have my heart filled with such thoughts. It puts a smile on my face that I can call myself ‘Nurse’ and share that title with you! 🙂
      Wow, that must’ve been tough not to have been there! But yes, you are right in a way its much better not to have that baggage. Thanks again for your kind comments! ❤

      Reply

  7. Daniel M. Perez
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 22:07:54

    Reply

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