Sometimes, not saying anything and just being there is the right thing to do that can make someone feel cared for, loved and not alone.
Recently, I had a patient who was very sick and had been hospitalized for almost a month, yet the treatment team still could not find the right explanation for her situation. The patient was wheezing and had been experiencing shortness of breath for days, which made her feel very anxious. Her respiratory system was so compromised that even talking for three to five words wore her out.
The first night I took care of her, she held my hand and said, “I’m scared.” She could not talk much (due to her shortness of breath). The second night, she was on a BiPAP* at night which helped with her breathing significantly, but she couldn’t really tolerate the mask. However, me and the rounding nurses explained and encouraged my patient to use the BiPaP, which she followed. Occasionally, she would ask me to give her a 5-10 minute break from the BiPaP, and I stayed with her during that time.
*BiPaP = a special type of mask that forces oxygen into the body via the mouth or nose while a person sleeps.
Reaching Out; Making a Difference
One time, when I already put the mask back on and was about to leave her bedside, she reached out and held my hand tight. She was trying to tell me something, and I guessed what she was trying to tell me. I asked her, “Do you want me to stay here for a little bit longer?” to which she nodded.
After that, she tried to strike up a conversation with the mask on, which was very challenging for her, so I held her hands and told her, “You do not have to say anything. I will stay here beside you. I am here.” She started crying afterwards and said thank you.
An Improved Patient Experience
After that, every time I came into my patient’s room to check on her to see if she was awake, I would hold her hand and wait until she closed her eyes again, resting. I observed that she was able to sleep better and was more engaged and eager to do her daily self-care.
Just a simple presence of being there beside her helped reduce my patient’s anxiety.
About Yanni Maris, RN
Yanni Maris is a clinical nurse in 5A Med Intermediate Care at WakeMed Raleigh Campus.
About the Take 5 Program at WakeMed
The Take 5 program was designed by a nursing unit council to demonstrate the impact that nurses/staff can have in improving patient satisfaction and experiences.
With the “Take 5” concept, WakeMed nurses set aside time on each shift (five minutes) to sit with their patients to talk about non-task-related topics. Nurses are then encouraged to write a brief narrative about one of their experiences to be submitted each month for review.