The Importance of Compassion in Nursing

This is one of the aspects that makes practicing this profession an art

Many of us already think of nurses as pros at caretaking. These healthcare professionals specialize in paying attention to the needs of their patients, and thoughtfully and carefully responding with kindness as well as knowledgeable skills. But there’s a reason nursing is considered an art, and not just a science. Recent studies show that compassion is more than a pleasant bonus in this line of work. Patients actually do better when the people caring for them make a connection, show empathy, and are skilled communicators. If you’re interested in nursing as a career, we’ve got a few suggestions for ways to make sure you’re giving your patients your best.

How to boost your compassionate care

There are lots of strategies expressing your compassion towards your patients. Some come more naturally, while others we may need to practice and cultivate. Maybe focus on the items on this list that you don’t find yourself doing automatically, and spend the next week working on improving in this area:

  • Focus on communication. Practice active listening by avoiding other distractions—not always easy in a healthcare setting!—and demonstrating that you’re hearing what the patient is saying. An effective tactic can be to repeat back what you heard, and check in with the person about whether that is what they meant. It’s also good to use attentive body language, by smiling, making eye contact, nodding your head in acknowledgment when they’re talking, or perhaps (if the patient is comfortable with it) offering a reassuring pat on the hand or shoulder. Even a calm, even tone of voice can be highly effective.
  • Display honesty. Speak openly with your patients when it’s appropriate, and do your best to answer their questions with candor and straightforward answers in simple language. This will go a long way towards inspiring trust in you. It’s common for patients to look to a nurse for information, given that their access to doctors tends to be for shorter periods during an office visit or hospital stay.
  • Practice empathy. This is the ability to let ourselves feel someone else’s pain or feelings as though they were our own. Nurses can’t take on all of the pain of those around them, but it is highly effective to show patients that you have an idea of how they’re feeling. Take the time to let your patients know that you’re tuned into them and that it matters to you how they’re doing.
  • Show concern. When there’s a problem with a patient’s care, reflect that you appreciate the seriousness of the situation, and are doing all you can to coordinate with the team of caregivers to rectify it. This will help patients to feel safe and protected, which is important when they’re in a vulnerable place given their illness, injury, or hospital stay.
  • Demonstrate respect. Patients may be upset to be outside their normal environment, and can feel less empowered. It’s essential to help them to maintain some modesty and dignity, given that they have less control over what’s happening. Respect is something you can easily show, by using their name when you speak to them, responding promptly to questions when they ask you, and taking seriously concerns they may share.

The idea is to create a sense that the nurse and patient are working together as a team towards optimal outcomes, in an ongoing way. This helps the patient to feel less alone, as well as that they’re being seen and heard. The nurse providing this continuity of care can be highly reassuring.

Taking the step to apply to nursing school

Ready to learn more about how you can enter the professional world of nursing? Nursing schools offer a range of different programs, depending on how long you’re prepared to be in school and what level of training you’re seeking. Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, for example, offers three different programs:

These professionals tend to work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This often means helping patients with their most basic care, such as bathing, dressing, and eating.

PCTs actively help patients with everyday health needs, from checking vital signs and taking blood to giving EKGs and assisting with exams.

Practical Nurses pay close attention to the immediate health status of their patients, so they can report information to doctors and RNs. They’re likely to answer questions over the phone, maintain equipment like oxygen supplies, and maintain medical histories. They also help administer medications.

Each program at Salter Nursing is designed to give you the practical, hands-on skills you need to work in this profession.

How to enroll

At Salter School of Nursing, enrolling is easy. We offer open enrollment, which means we accept students on a rolling basis, so you can submit your application online whenever is convenient for you. You’ll need to submit a transcript of your secondary schooling and take a few other steps, depending on which program you’re interested in. If you’d rather complete the application in person, call us at (603) 662-8400 to talk with one of our representatives, who can help walk you through the process.

Now that you have a sense of how compassion can benefit even the most experienced nurses (and their patients), we encourage you to explore your options in the nursing profession. It can be highly rewarding to care for others as a career, and you’re likely to find a professional path that’s right for you. Whatever nursing role you might decide to take on, keep in mind this focus on compassion—it will benefit you as well as your patients throughout your days on the job.

This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health. We’re dedicated to helping all our students pursue their career goals. Learn more about the programs we offer by visiting us online or calling (603) 662-8400. We also invite you to schedule a visit to our campus in Manchester, NH.