Due to a ruptured pancreas, David Brown found himself on life support for three weeks, unable to move for himself. David, however, was completely conscious of all events transpiring around him. In his words, “for three weeks, overhearing many sharp conversations about end-of-life care discussed over me. I remember thinking, how strange it was to watch myself die.”
As nurses, physicians and caregivers, you have immense power in the lives of others who may seem to have no power in yours.
I’ve known many who become numb to the patient experience because frankly, it’s easier. Empathy in the health field can seem like an exhausting virtue to practice.
David Brown continues, “In those three weeks I lost fifty pounds, and every time I was moved to be cleaned or have my sheets changed, it felt like my hips and shoulders were coming out of their sockets.” Unable to communicate his pain he was left to the mercy of the medical staff.
Empathy is defined as the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. Now that sounds all well and good, but many of you can’t have perfect empathy because you haven’t been in their shoes. In fact, as a physician or nurse, it is impossible to have perfect empathy with all your patients. You don’t share the majority of the ailments they suffer from, and most likely, you never will.
So this week I give the challenge to you, that although you maybe can’t always understand their feelings, you can share them. This week, choose one patient a day and put yourself completely in their shoes.
Even if it’s just for five minutes, that may be what makes the difference in their day. That may not seem like a big deal, but when a patient becomes more than just a patient, and is recognized as a father trying to recover in time for his daughter’s wedding, a mother that is too overwhelmed to understand the treatment plan for her cancer, or a parent hearing the word tumor and son in the same sentence, that is why this all matters. Because, for you, as a healthcare provider, people can never become ‘just business.’
And as a leader, people are your practice.