Connecting With Patients

Since nursing is often a task-oriented profession, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that there’s a person—the patient–right in front of us. In our rush to get things done, the patient can become an object rather than an individual, and this can be a loss for both the nurse and the patient.

When we notice that we’re rushing around, performing our tasks, but ignoring the fact that our patient is sitting right in front of us, this is a signal that we need to pause, take a breath, and consider the ramifications of our actions as we buzz like a busy bee—or rush through patient care like a bull in the proverbial china shop.

There’s no arguing that nurses have a lot to accomplish in the course of a shift. There’s also no arguing that the seemingly never-ending list of tasks to accomplish seems akin to the mythical Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a mountain each day, only to have it roll back down again.

However, even as we strive to do everything that’s expected of us in terms of tasks, we also need to take a moment to connect with the person who truly makes our job exist in the first place: the patient.

This patient is not a rock that we have to roll up a hill before we give report and go home. He or she is a human being with feelings, fears and trepidations, and part of our job is to comfort, educate, reassure and otherwise connect with this person with an appropriate level of intimacy and compassion.

That said, there are many aspects of our job that can distract us from the patient. Here are some examples:

Documentation: sometimes documentation seems like the be-all and end-all of nursing. Remember being told a million times in nursing school that if you don’t write it down, you didn’t do it? Well, that can become a barrier between you and your patient, so just be aware of keeping the patient at the center of your attention.

Gadgets: tablet computers, rolling laptop stations and point-of-care gadgets are all well and good, but if your eyes are focused on the gadget and not your patient, something is missing.

Your clipboard: some nurses may still use an old-fashioned clipboard when rounding on patients. This manual to-do list can be a life-saver, but it can also be an impediment to nurse-patient interaction. Put it down and connect!

Your colleagues: chatting in the nurses station is fine, and sharing about your weekend or your adventures on vacation is a great way to connect with your colleagues. However, patients sometimes complain that nurses’ busy chatter amongst themselves seems to sometimes distract them from the tasks at hand. And remember, you can also chat with your patients about their lives, losses, loves and fears.

There are many other distracting elements at play when you’re delivering patient care, but the most important thing to remember is that the nurse-patient relationship is paramount, and the tenor and feeling of that relationship can contribute greatly to patient healing and well-being.

Connect with your patients, look into their eyes, really listen with an open heart, and your heart will also be opened. Much satisfaction can be derived by both parties from robust and meaningful nurse-patient relationships. Make relationship a center aspect of your nursing care, and feel how your livelihood and your experiences at work are empowered and deepened.


About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at