The Importance of Empathy for the Patient in a Hospital

patient lying in a hospital bed looking sad
Written by
Hargun Kaur
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
April 22, 2024
"Without a word, my nurse answered my pain by holding my hand through the next contraction. It was the first time that day that I felt less alone and thanked her silently. Now, it crosses my mind how difficult hospital nursing jobs must be, requiring the medical background and the tact to read a patient's needs." Dianne Coppens 

Being in a hospital typically means a patient’s body needs help, but Dianne’s experience—and those of many other patients—show how emotional and mental trauma can many times be more significant than physical ailments. 

This article illustrates what it’s like to be a patient in a hospital and how nurses can help their patients have a more positive experience. 

How Does Someone Become a Hospital Patient?

While many people come to hospitals for routine medical check-ups, Emergency Room (ER) cases fill many hospital beds. 

Be it an accident, like falling down the stairs, an emergency, like Dianne's preterm labor, or a diagnosed condition, such as heart failure, sickness comes with its fair share of fear, confusion, and even shame.  

If you walk through the aisles of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or run a poll among acute care nursing patients, you'll find many people would rather be anywhere else.

Hospitalized patients find themselves losing their sense of independence and often facing financial strain. 

The Bed Point of View (POV)

Put yourself in the bed POV. You must proceed through your rounds and activities and have a routine to follow. Still, every time you walk into a room, you'll find sick or injured people who often cannot carry out even basic everyday tasks for themselves. 

While in hospital beds, patients can no longer move how they desire, eat what they crave, shower, or use the toilet how and whenever they need to. People endure physical pain and solitude and often feel they are burdens to the medical staff as well as family members. 

Nothing is as humbling as needing help to wipe after the toilet. Countless times, the shame of needing help becomes so prominent that people don't ask.

Furthermore, there's also grief. People grieve about their lost loved ones or lost health and independence. Grief and depression can leave patients feeling like basic everyday functioning is too much, making them not care about their diagnoses or medical instructions. 

Why Does Empathy Matter?

Nursing is your calling, and you came into this line of work to help others. You have a nurturing nature and are a champion for the people in your care. 

But whether you are a MedSurg RN, a Telemetry RN, or an Oncology nurse, you need to be a people person or, at the bare minimum, a patient person.

"When an empathetic engagement is formed, then a trusting relationship will develop, the constraints of the relationship will diminish, and this will lead to a more accurate diagnosis and greater compliance." Empathy in Health Professions Education and Patient Care

There is a correlation between empathy in care and your patient's recovery. Many patients rely on you to be proactive in their care and to remind each of them that they are not alone or a burden. 

8 Ways to Show Compassion to Patients

Days in a medical facility can run fast and hectic, so here are some simple ways you can show compassion to your patients. 

  1. Be present: In every round, take a moment to smile and genuinely ask how patients are feeling. Remember their names and the details they mention to initiate conversations.
  2. Listen to your patients: Listen to their words and pay attention to their body language. Many people are embarrassed to ask for help or feel ashamed of needing said help, so they instead suffer in silence. 
  3. Be patient: Nurses are not always aware of the inner turmoil and deep sadness a patient can feel. Hospitalized patients may be in shock or forgetful due to stress or pain, so small requests can feel like climbing a mountain. Therefore, kindness and patience are vital.
  4. Be proactive: Asking about patients' needs, including pain medicine or toilet runs, can help them ease their discomfort and build trust between patient and nurse
  5. Take the time to explain: Several times, due to pain or shock, patients are unable to register the medical instructions or understand the importance of their treatments. Be sure to talk to them about their treatments and explain recommendations.
  6. Show empathy: Shedding a tear, sharing uplifting words, or, in some cases, offering a hug during a difficult time won't make you less professional. Doing so, on the other hand, will make your patients feel like they matter.  
  7. Offer support: You can create or share resources like support groups, magazines, puzzles, etc. These resources can go a long way to uplift your patient's spirit. 
  8. Brainstorm: Talk to other nurses, share your past stories and ideas about how to make the hospital experience more humanizing, and devise your own ways.

Become a Warrior Caretaker

The biggest fear in this world is the fear of death. Hospital RN jobs are for warriors who help the ones in need. To fight for their patients, nurses need to understand how frightening and dehumanizing their patients' experiences can be.

When your shifts feel longer and harder, remember how your presence can be as healing as the medical treatment itself.

Blog published on:
April 22, 2024

Meet Hargun, a contributing copywriter at Nursa, passionate about life, travel, and spirituality. She specializes in content about locations where nurses can find work and topics related to preventive medicine and holistic healthcare.

Sign Up with Nursa and Request PRN Jobs near You

Related Blog Posts

See All Blogs
GO BEYOND A SINGLE JOB

Choose Multiple PRN Shifts on Your Schedule

Nursa isn't just about finding a job; it's about crafting your ideal work schedule by selecting shifts. Once you create a Nursa profile, you will experience the convenience of scheduling shifts in real-time.

Certified Nursing Assistant CNA - Assisted Living Memory Care $23.62 per hour
CNA
Date
July 15, 2024
Hourly
$
24
Est. Total
$
19557
View Shift
00:00 - 12:00
Elk Meadows Assisted Living
Certified Nursing Assistant CNA - Assisted Living Memory Care $22.59 per hour
CNA
Date
July 16, 2024
Hourly
$
23
Est. Total
$
18705
View Shift
00:00 - 12:00
Elk Meadows Assisted Living
Certified Nursing Assistant CNA - Assisted Living Memory Care $22.59 per hour
CNA
Date
July 17, 2024
Hourly
$
23
Est. Total
$
18705
View Shift
00:00 - 12:00
Elk Meadows Assisted Living

See More Shifts and Apply Now

Explore and find where you would like to work

Search ShiftsPer Diem Jobs
Briefcase purple icon

Pick Up a Job Today

Find per diem PRN job opportunities in your area. High paying CNA, LPN and RN and many more are now available now.

Join Nursa
Building Purple Icon

Post Your Jobs Today

Facilities who use Nursa fill 3 times as many open per diem shifts, on average, compared to trying to fill the shifts themselves.

Post Jobs
Nursa is no 1 mobile app for clinicians

Download the App Now

App store Button
Google Play button