Sometimes as a nurse, it's easy to get lost in our patients' lives without realizing the impact we may be missing by shutting out, or not sharing our own personal story with our patients.
This may look different in each patient scenario, but the truth is that as we learn about our patients and their lives the stronger the relationship becomes, especially when we share our own stories as well.
For me, this concept didn't connect with me until I met James. James was an elderly patient that I had the privilege of caring for over a period of many years. We saw each other several times a year, when he was sick, and of course at his yearly check-ups.
I knew he lived alone, and that his family was scattered around the country. What I didn't know was how lonely James was, especially around the holiday season. This only became clear when I inadvertently shared a bit about my own life with James.
James had come to the office for flu like symptoms that day. It was around the time of Thanksgiving, and I already had learned that James was not going to be seeing his sons and grandkids over the holidays. What I didn't know, was how this was affecting him.
As we talked about his health, I mentioned to him briefly about how difficult it had been for me over the years to live away from my family. I had not shared this type of personal information often with patients, but, in this moment, I saw the value of this openness.
James looked up at me and told me he too struggled with sadness around the holidays. As he elaborated on his feelings, I saw a new vulnerability. It was as if somehow knowing my struggle, he was able to draw strength to give me comfort. Despite his sadness, he seemed to radiate a desire to uplift me.
When James left that day I thought about the immediate change I had seen in him once I shared my own struggle. James gained strength in knowing that somehow his own journey could help give me strength too.
In some manner, I think this reminded me of the heart of nursing. It's not a coincidence that nurses are often voted as the most trusted profession.
In the theme of this trust, it is my hope that I may often be transparent with my patients. So that they too can built that trust and desire to grow together in this journey called life!
Kristine Diggins of Waxhall, NC, has made a life-long commitment to medical missions overseas. She and her husband are evangelical missionaries who travel often to the Brazilian rain forest to operate a clinic she established in 2002.
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