Patients come in all ages, types of illnesses and different dispositions. For various reasons, some are easier to care for than others. Sometimes a word or action will trigger a flashback to a former patient of mine. Several times since his discharge, I recalled a patient who had a hip replacement and was a bit difficult to care for, not because of his surgery but because he was demanding, needy and mean to the staff on the unit.
I did not take the patient’s negative attitude personally. I tried to put myself in his place and think how I might be feeling and acting if I were a very alone older person who had just had a major operation, was in a certain amount of pain, and was facing months of hip therapy. I empathized with him and offered him as much compassion and understanding as possible. If he was in pain, I did for him what I could within the framework of the doctor’s orders. If he wanted to talk—which he often did—I listened for as long as time permitted. Importantly, I did not just hear him, I listened to everything he said—and he knew it. It began to make a difference. He began to look forward to my coming to his bedside, and I felt myself drawn to him as well. He was becoming quite pleasant, something the staff noticed as well. He had also begun healing at a faster rate. Upon discharge, I got the privilege of taking him in a wheelchair to his waiting transportation where we bid each other a fond farewell
A few weeks later, I met this man in a grocery store. He thanked me for the excellent physical care I had given him. He was also especially grateful for the compassion and understanding that I had shown him, something that I, according to him, was the only one to do. I became a little sad to hear that the other staff did not show him a high level of compassion and understanding, but very thankful and satisfied that at least I had made a difference.