How to Show Empathy to Your Patients

The best caregivers are those who recognize that their expertise can only go so far. After that, it’s empathy that sets them apart. Read on to learn how you can show your patients compassion and empathy so that they can get through the hardest parts of their journey.

#1 Get to Know Your Patient

Relationships — however short-lived — are deepened by a personal connection. And when you value the details about your patients’ lives, you show them that they aren’t just another number. When you finish asking essential medical questions, ask about your patient’s family, their past, their friends, and their interests. Getting to know your patient apart from their medical issues is critical to establishing trust and fostering empathy.

#2 Look and Listen

The eyes are the window to the soul, and if you’re a nurse, no one knows this better than you. Setting the clipboard aside or turning away from the computer after completing your patient’s EMR can make the difference between your patient feeling cared for or ignored. When we look into the eyes of our patients and turn a listening ear to them, we tell them that we care about them as individuals. 

Your attention can sometimes mean more to a patient than the medical care that they received while under your watch. After all, a compassionate gaze and a listening ear give us the strength to get through just about anything. Simply “being there” has more power than we can measure.

#3 Talk to Family

When their loved one is going through pain, suffering, or the fear of the unknown, the family goes along for the ride, but their struggles can largely go unnoticed. So, when you see that family member sitting quietly, gently holding the hand of your patient, offer your compassion to them as well. Ask what it has been like to endure this trial or wonder what the outcome will be. Offer your support. Tell them that you understand and that it’s hard. Show you care by validating the complicated feelings of a supportive family member.

Final Thoughts

Nursing is hard. You pour yourself into your role — more of a lifestyle than a job — and you come home empty. But knowing that you gave your patient everything you had is what makes you a hero. Keep doing what you’re doing. You truly are making a difference in the lives of your patients.