Ask any nurse if they have any memorable patients and they’ll instantly recall at least a few people that truly impacted their lives. Healthcare professions have strict policies against crossing professional-boundaries, but also reward ones that are able to positively connect with those they are treating in order to aid in their recovery. However, as you can read in “Blurred Lines: Proper Nurse and Patient Boundaries“, the line between compassionate-care and inappropriate behavior can be a difficult one to distinguish.
The Florence Nightingale oath all nurses must take, establishes rules of fairness that nurses must follow. For example, nurses should never be spending more time attending to patients than others in order to keep a fair practice in place. But, as human beings working in these sensitive environments, it can be easy to accidentally have minor slip-ups.
Sarah Horstmann, R.N., wrote about a patient that had a strong similarity to her own grandfather who had recently passed away that she found herself unconsciously doing things that may be considered unethical. Sure, none of her actions were harmful in anyway. But, still she had created a bond with the elderly man that before she knew it she was checking in on him more frequently than other patients. As the case with most older patients, one day he was gone and it made her wonder if she should have ever let him know how she felt about him and how he reminded her of her own loved one. She felt a sadness as if her grandfather had once again departed from this world. But, as his nurse she knew she could not deviate from her professional demeanor to share that.
“Nurses and patients move in and out of each others’ lives so quickly, but we are nonetheless changed by every encounter,” said Horstmann, “I became a nurse because I want to care for people and make a difference. Being touched in return is an added bonus.”
Bonding with patients on emotional levels can be mutually beneficial. When nurses are able to build friendly relationships with those they are treating, they are able to develop a trust. Trust is a very important aspect in healthcare. Many patients are in such devastated positions; worried about their well-being that the best thing you can do is comfort them and make them feel at ease.
How to Build Trust: A Brief Nurse’s Guide
1. HOW you say things is almost as important than WHAT you say
Body language is a very important way to develop (or lose) trust. For example, don’t appear enthusiastic when you tell bad news. That makes patients feel as if you are insensitive. Instead, save those elaborate gestures for when you are sharing positive results.
2. Do Not “Oversell” Your Abilities
There’s no good that comes for lying to patients about your abilities. Installing false hope in being able to treat them is a terrible practice and will lose any trust they may have had for you. Instead, don’t be afraid to ask other healthcare professionals you work with if they could be better at helping them. No one is perfect and you shouldn’t be afraid to honestly admit when you are feeling inept.
3. Listen More than Speak
One huge way to build a bond with patients is to act with transparency. Maintain eye contact, nod to show you are being attentive, and actually listen to what they are voicing. It is important they know you are willing to consider what they have to say. It shows a positive character on your part and the patient feels secure that their needs are being taken care of.
Bonding with patients is a great way to show them they are being genuinely cared for, but it also can put emotional distress on the nurse who can accidentally develop attachments. But, remember; there is a line between compassionate care and wrongful practices when it comes to nurses bonding with patients.