Emergency Nurses Week: Improving the Patient Experience Through Compassion

Posted on Mon, Oct 12, 2015
Emergency Nurses Week: Improving the Patient Experience Through Compassion

By Sabrina Griffin, RN, BSN

As I sit by the hospital bed that my best friend has now occupied for two weeks, I reflect on being a patient myself just a year ago. Being on this side of the bed is even harder than being the patient. You sit and wait and feel helpless. As a caregiver and a nurse, that challenge is even greater. Are these nurses going to take care of her like I would? Some shifts I don’t dare leave the room.

I’ve also been reflecting on the incredible media coverage our nursing profession has received after the Miss America Pageant and the stethoscope comments made on “The View.” This may upset some, but I have a different thought. Could the ladies on “The View” have been sharing their perception of nursing based on interactions have they had with nurses? Have they seen a nurse use his or her stethoscope?

I can share with you as a patient and caregiver that not all nurses assess their patients. Remember, in healthcare, the patient experience is how the patient perceives his or her care, not necessarily the reality of the care. Healthcare in general is judged based upon if staff members were nice, and if the facility clean and quiet. It’s hard to accept that we go to school for many years, continue to advance our skills with continuing education and certifications, and what patients want is for us to be nice.

Tips for Improving the Patient Experience

So how do we do that? Basically we use the skills we learned as children. Be nice and hold hands. Yes, you should sit down and touch the patients. Look them in the eyes and convey compassion. Remember that nursing is the art and science of caring.

Here are a few tips to make sure the patient experience is a great one:

  • Talk to your patients. There are plenty of research studies and white papers exploring the science of waiting. In a nutshell, people are willing to wait if they know what they are waiting for. Have you ever been in an exam room staring at the clock? Time creeps by, especially if you have no clue what is going on.
  • Involve patients in their care. Consumers are smart and have already Googled their conditions and made their own diagnoses. Let them know the plan of care and solicit their input: “Nothing about the patient without the patient.”
  • Show compassion. Being a patient means that they are sick or physically injured. They may be scared and definitely sleep deprived. They are stressed, so they may not be on their best behavior, but you have to make every encounter great.

You we love our acronyms, so here is one – PATIENT – to remember to show more compassion toward your patients:
  • Patience - This is a tough one in our busy shifts, but we want patients to feel that they are our only priority.
  • Affirmation and Attitude - Some patients need to know that they made the right decision to come to the hospital. Have a great attitude! It affects everything.
  • Time - Share the plan of care with the patient and give him or her an estimate of how long their visit will be.
  • Information - Give patients as much information as possible about tests being ordered or treatment plans. They have a right to be involved.
  • Empathy - Show compassion for what your patients are experiencing.
  • Nice - It’s so simple. Treat patients and family as you would want to be treated.
  • Trustworthy - Nursing is considered to be a trustworthy profession. Make sure we live up to this.

This year, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is celebrating Emergency Nurses Week from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17. Emergency Nurses Day is Wednesday, Oct. 14. In a year when Ebola and the measles made international headlines, this year’s theme is “Celebrating the Courage of Nurses Worldwide,” recognizing that emergency nurses courageously stand at the front line of emergency care every day. Be sure to thank an emergency nurse today – and every day.

Sabrina Griffin, RN, BSN, is the Divisional Director of Clinical Services in EmCare’s South Division.

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