Nursing is a profession that taps into your professional capabilities as well as your personal feelings. Although most nurses strive to separate their emotions from the job, it is virtually impossible to turn off your humanity when faced with the life and death situations so often present in the health care capacity. This often means taking an interest in your patients and their families above and beyond the call of duty.
One way in which this commonly occurs is when a patient is in a hospital or long-term care setting for an advanced period of time. Whether the patient was in an accident and will need health care services for a six-month rehabilitation period, or if you are releasing a patient to the care of his or her loved ones, there comes a time when family members become part of your responsibilities.
For many nurses, family education is just one of a large list of roles. Although doctors, occupational therapists, and physical therapists all share this task, it often falls on the nurse to ensure that family members are comfortable with their prescribed tasks and that they know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.
Like patient advocacy, family advocacy is an important step in the healing process. Whether you work in a hospital setting, in a physician’s office, or for a government health care organization, nursing is a leadership role, and families will turn to you for advice and information. Your job isn’t to have all the answers, but to know where family members can find them.
Furthermore, most nurses have to deal with family members on a daily basis, regardless of the work environment. Concerned loved ones who refuse to leave the patient’s bedside, parents with questions, and even people who question your quality of care are all part of the nursing experience – and learning how to cope with them isn’t always part of your formal nursing education. And in many cases, the interaction isn’t a positive one.
Nursing support groups and nursing courses that deal with the psychology of health care can go a long way in boosting your professional skills in this regard. In fact, if you are still in nursing school and you have an opportunity to take a course on communication with patient families, it’s a good idea to take advantage of it. You will never be able to please everyone, especially when your emotions are tied up in the patient, and being able to view yourself as a compassionate professional with the necessary boundaries in place will go a long way in helping you to succeed in the field.