Why Low-Tech Skills Still Matter in Nursing
Jennnifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN | NursingLink
Nursing today is definitely a highly skilled, high-tech profession. Smartphones, tablet computers, and a variety of easily accessible apps bring the world of technology to our fingertips, increasing the amount of information we can access and share in a very short time. But the so-called “little things” – listening to patients, touching them, spending time with family – still make a difference.
The Power of Presence
Sometimes, simply “being there” is the most important thing you can do for a patient. Years ago, one of my patients declared me the best nurse he ever had, simply because I spent 10 minutes inquiring about his family after noticing their picture on his bedside table. I hadn’t performed a single technical nursing skill, yet to him, my interest in his life and family signified a genuine interest in him as a human being – and that, to him, made all the difference.
Never underestimate the power of presence. In one study, patients and nurses alike “agreed that the two most important characteristics of an expert palliative care nurse were interpersonal skills and qualities such as kindness, warmth, compassion and genuineness.” Taking the time to listen to a patient – or to sit there quietly, when needed – helps patients feel less alone. Your presence can also help patients who are struggling to find meaning in their diagnosis and suffering; being a caring, compassionate sounding board can ease the discomfort of a patient who is in the midst of a psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical crisis.
Presence requires concentration. It’s not enough to simply be in a patient’s room! To fully benefit from your presence, your patient needs to know that your attention is focused on her, as a person – not on her wound, treatment, or diagnosis. Making yourself available to your patients takes time, but that time may be well-spent. Research published in Health Expectations and Health and Social Care in the Community outlines the relationship between presence and patient adherence to planned medical treatment. Patients must feel comfortable with their nurse before they express their unique concerns (which may affect adherence), and the nurse must be available to listen to the patient so that she can individualize care for maximum benefit.