As a travel nurse, there’s no hospital without difficult patients. But difficult patients are often just patients who are especially hurting and feel like they’re not being helped or listened to. If they’re in your care, they need support, medical attention, and help understanding what’s going on. Here are some ways you can meet their needs and help them feel listened to.
“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Travel nurses are gifted with adapting to change quickly — a perk of working in different cities and figuring out new floor protocols quickly! You can use that skill to your benefit by adapting to whatever needs each day meets you with. If you go into each situation with the knowledge that things can — and likely will — change quickly, you’ll be better prepared to adapt to whatever challenge hits you next. By expecting the unexpected, you can better help patients by keeping your cool.
Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. The problem is, you don’t have years or months to establish your trustworthiness — sometimes you have a day at most. So it’s important to avoid anything that would break trust. So be professional, keep calm, and make sure you’re serving patients to the best of your ability. Even if you have a busy day, treating every patient with respect goes a long way towards fostering feelings of stability and trust.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel understood if nobody’s paying attention to you. Ask patients questions to see if they’re comfortable, if they understand what’s going on, and if there’s anything they need. You may not be able to fulfill every request, but they’ll at least feel heard and listened to.
Like any other habit, empathy takes practice. At home, in the checkout lane, in traffic — where are people hurting? How can you offer them some encouragement? A lack of judgment or offering even a small smile goes a long way to someone who is having the worst day. When you practice empathy everywhere — not just on your floor — it gets stronger, like a muscle. The more you practice kindness for other people, the more automatic and reflexive it will feel.
By Aubrey Schieuer