People generally go into nursing because they want to make a difference and help others. As is true of most people in the business of providing care to others, nurses are usually kind and caring individuals with the best of intentions. Even so, sometimes those with the biggest hearts can still get distracted, vexed, or just caught up in other tasks and forget to think about holistic care. In doing so, they can forget some of the things that make the biggest differences for their patients. Of course, the best nurses do the basics of their jobs well — administering medications, assessing patient symptoms, taking and analyzing vital signs, performing procedures, managing wounds and pain, and following treatment orders from the doctor. But it’s often what happens in between all of those things that sets the best nurses apart and gives the opportunity to provide holistic care.
Whether the care setting is a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office, or the care is being provided in the patient’s home through a home care agency or a hospice or palliative care provider, nurses are usually the ones who share crucial information with the patient, and they collect equally important information from the patient and his caregivers. How this information is shared can make or break the potential for the patient’s compliance with his treatment plan and how his family provides support to him. How the information is gleaned, and, even more importantly, what information is gleaned, can help the entire care team — including the patient and the family — anticipate potential risks, barriers, and other issues. These issues can then be addressed in a way that gives the patient the best chance at recovery, improved health, and the ability to maintain a higher quality of life.
While patients expect their care providers to be the experts and to guide them to better health, they appreciate when care is customized to their individual needs, goals, and circumstances. The best nurses take the time to individualize patient care so that their patients have the best chance to regain their lifestyle.
What the Best Nurses Do
They listen. There’s an art to listening to someone with failing health and abilities. Hearing not only what she is saying, but what she is not saying can help determine whether she fully understands the diagnosis, the treatment plan, and what is required to regain her health and independence. Learning to read between the lines can make all the difference. It’s a nurse’s job to make judgments about what he sees and what he hears. Try not to let that get in the way of following a holistic approach by first listening with an open mind and then making your professional judgment — not of the person, but of what she is saying. This will impact the treatment plan.