Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some thoughts on dignity and compassion

I just posted that I had received a very nice compliment today. I had gone to see a patient yesterday, and while I was there our chaplain (who is a truly lovely woman, the epitome of what a Christian should be), and one of our social workers also stopped by for a visit. I did my assessment, set up the pill box for the week, and spent some time talking with the patient and the family about any needs that they had.

When I came in to the office this morning, Anne (the chaplain) told me how impressed she was with how I interacted with the patient, she said I treated them with compassion and dignity, that I was very kind and caring. It meant a great deal to me to hear that from her. It also made me feel a little sad that treating someone with dignity and compassion would be something that needed complimenting.

I've always believed that it doesn't matter where someone comes from, or how they ended up needing my care as a nurse, what matters is where they are right now, in this moment. In this moment, they're a human being who is sick, in pain, frightened, and my job, my duty as a nurse is to relieve their pain, ease their fear, and treat their symptoms.

I've taken care of homeless people, and millionaires, the illiterate and college professors, and I don't care if you live in a palace, or a box on the corner, I treat all of my patients the same.

I treat them like human beings.

When you strip away the possessions, we're all the same.

The focus in working for Hospice is different than it is in other types of nursing. The goal is not to cure, because our patients are not curable. They're dying. My focus as a Hospice nurse is to relieve pain, ease symptoms, and allow my patients to live as fully as they possibly can for as long as they can. I've learned so much from my patients already - about what truly matters most in life, about what is really meaningful, and what is trivial. It's helped reinforce the appreciation I have for how good my life really is.

To treat the people who teach me about what really matters in life with anything less than the best, most compassionate care I can give them is to dishonor the trust they place in me.

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