December 1, 2023

Connecting with the Person Behind the Patient (Podcast)

Compassionate care requires nurses to see beyond medical conditions to understand the complete patient

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It’s easy for nurses to get so caught up in patient assessments, lab results and bedside tasks that they lose sight of the patient as a person.

“I think it’s up to us as nurses walking in the [patient’s] room to understand that we’re entering the room of a person who has a life,” says Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN. “The person has a history.”

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, Albert, ACNO of Nursing Research and Innovation at Cleveland Clinic, shares insight on connecting with patients as people and keeping them at the center of care. She discusses:

  • How to gain a patient’s perspective throughout their hospital stay
  • The importance of listening to and comforting patients
  • The role of patient plan-of-care visits that include patients, families, nurses and providers
  • How to advocate on behalf of patients
  • Embracing vulnerability in both patients and ourselves

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essentials episodes at my.clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/nurse-essentials or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Podcast excerpt

Podcast host Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, NEA-BC: With nursing students or newer nurses, there’s a lot to remember – who do I call and what do I do? What are some key things that they can be thinking of, other than their own humanness? How do you juggle all those competing demands?

Albert: There is a lot going on. And I think maybe the very first thing we need to do is ask patients a simple question: What do you need from me right now? And that way, you may open Pandora’s box a little bit.

So, you have to have time to have Pandora’s box be opened. But at least it will give the patient a chance to say, ‘You know, I’m worried about who’s going to cut the lawn. I’m worried about making sure a bill gets paid. I need to call my wife to do X, Y, Z.’

They may be having those thoughts, but really they may also be worried about their diagnosis or what’s going to be next. And it’s not that the nurse has to have all the answers. But if the nurse could at least open that door for the questions, they could take notes, write them down, show that they care, show that they’re concerned about that person in the bed, not just the patient in the bed.

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Again, it’s just starting that conversation. And when the nurse does it, they can’t look like they’re bored and just going through the motion. They need to have good eye contact. They need to look engaged, act engaged.

I actually have a slide I use in some leadership talks. I show a person smiling. You’re not smiling because you’re happy they’re sick and in your bed, but you’re smiling to show that you’re attentive and listening and that you care about this person. So, you know, go with the flow of the conversation. Maybe you have to show a sad face at that moment if you’re really listening. But what I really mean is a smile can help somebody else really feel like she or he is with me on this journey.

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