Compassion is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Compassion is synonymous with our work in healthcare. Our job is to care for our patients with the hope to relieve some suffering. The following are just a few ways to be a more compassionate nurse.
Start with Yourself
Practice compassion within. Let go of the self judgement of not being good enough, smart enough, skilled enough. You are your own worst critic. Begin to notice that negative internal chatter that goes on and acknowledge, but try not to feed into it. Would you talk to your best friend or loved one in the same way? Be kind to yourself. Show compassion to yourself.
Research has shown that practicing kindness is beneficial to our health. Kindness increases dopamine and oxytocin in the brain of the giver. It just feels good. Kindness is contagious. Showing kindness is easy when it is someone you care about or like, but what about a difficult coworker or patient? Can you dig deep and approach the person from a kind place even when the feeling in not reciprocated?
The act of empathy goes hand in hand with compassion. Empathy allows us to try to see through the eyes of another. When we do so, we are able to sympathize for their loss or suffering, thus making us more compassionate. Most of us that work in healthcare are born empathizers.
This can be a tough one. After years of witnessing the drug seekers in the emergency room or drug addicted moms birthing drug addicted babies, one can become jaded. The thing is, if we refer back to practicing empathy, can we try to imagine what lead our patient down this path? Perhaps it was something traumatic in life that lacked support and lead the individual with no other choice of coping mechanism. Removing judgement allows us to treat each patient with the same amount of respect and compassion.
Compassion benefits everyone-the giver and the receiver. It is an act that requires care, practice, and awareness. It starts with the individual within and can spread far and wide. The Dalai Lama sums it up perfectly, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly for Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through Neonurse or on Instagram.