Emergency nurses are essential healthcare professionals entrusted with providing emergency care to patients during the worst moments of their lives. Emergency nurses play an essential role not only in the survival of patients but in their long-term recovery as well. In almost all cases, barring paramedics in the prehospital setting, the Emergency Department (ED) nurse is the first point of contact for individuals being admitted into the healthcare system.
Today’s ED nurse is surrounded by incredible advancements in technology and critical care equipment, and must possess high levels of technical skill and knowledge. While there is tremendous emphasis placed on data collection and outcome driven care, the emergency nurse must have the ability to go beyond the numbers, flashing lights, and Bluetooth connections and provide high levels of compassionate care and genuine concern for their patients.
A long history of caring
The field of nursing was born out of compassion for those who are ill or injured. In many cases it was care for wounded soldiers or those who fell ill to a pandemic which gave rise to the demand for quality nursing.
Patients who require emergency care frequently experience elevated levels of stress, fear, and anxiety, and require care that goes beyond technical expertise.
Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath through which they pledge to care for the whole patient and not just the present illness. This portion of that oath extends to all aspects of the healthcare profession. However, in the modern setting surrounded by technology, high patient to nurse ratios, and high levels of performance expectations, it is easy to lose focus on the need to be compassionate.
What is Compassionate Care?
Compassionate care involves treating the patient as a whole person and not just a medical condition. It is about empathy, active listening, and providing emotional support. Displaying true compassion helps build trust between the nurse and the patient and establishes a level of comfort which is essential for effective communication and appropriate decision-making.
Effective communication is a critical component of compassionate nursing care and is highly emphasized during many of the programs offered at the First There First Care conference. In the emergency department, nurses must communicate effectively with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals. Applying the concepts of active listening, clear and concise language, and providing simple explanations for complex medical concepts helps create a bond between the patient and the nurse. Effective communication is essential for building trust with the patient, establishing a rapport, and ensuring that the patient feels both comfortable and safe.
True compassion means treating each patient with dignity and respect and recognizing each patient’s unique needs and preferences. True concern for the patient involves taking the time to get to know the patient, understanding their fears and concerns, and providing emotional support. This type of care helps foster an environment of healing and recovery.
Take care of each other
While this may sound simple on paper, providing high levels of compassionate care can be emotionally challenging. Emergency nurses often work long hours, must make quick decisions, and are exposed to a constant dose of highly stressful situations. It is important for nurses to recognize the need for self-care as well. If the nurse is stressed beyond the capacity to effectively manage stress levels or pushed to the brink of emotional collapse she or he cannot possibly provide high levels of compassion for the patient. Such scenarios can and have led to complete system failures. The nurse and nursing supervisors must recognize the need and value in taking breaks, getting support from colleagues, and seeking appropriate outlets when needed. Professional help, which is often readily available in the clinical setting should be part of a wellness package for the entire nursing staff. Nurses, especially those in the critical care settings should be encouraged to access those services without hesitation. The Nursing Leadership component of the First There First Care Conference explores such options for nurses and nursing teams.
The lifeblood of the healthcare system
Emergency nurses play a critical role in providing life-saving care to patients requiring immediate medical attention and are often the critical difference maker between life and death. While technical skills and knowledge are essential in today’s healthcare environment, it is equally important for emergency nurses to go beyond life supporting technology and focus on compassionate care and true concern for the patient.
Compassionate care involves treating the patient as a whole person, while effective communication and true concern for the patient involve building trust and establishing a rapport. Those philosophies must extend internally as well. Emergency nurses must take care of themselves and each other. Providing compassionate care can be emotionally challenging. By focusing on compassionate care and true concern for the patient, emergency nurses can provide the best possible care and ultimately secure better outcomes for their patients.