Let’s “Give It Up” for Nurses through Compassionate, Connected Care

Added on Oct 28, 2019

By Diana Mahoney

viral-labor-delivery-nurseLet’s “Give It Up” for Nurses through Compassionate, Connected Care
By Diana Mahoney

Sometimes all it takes is a single picture to spark an explosion of emotions, stories, and conversations. That was what happened when Laura McIntyre posted this picture of her identical twin sister, Caty Nixon, a labor and delivery nurse at Medical City McKinney in Texas, on Facebook. In her caption, McIntyre wrote, “She’s gonna kill me for this pic, but can we just give it up for nurses for a minute?,” explaining that her sister, who had just finished a long shift that included a stillborn delivery, “often forgets how to take care of herself while she’s taking care of her patients.”

The response was immediate and viral. It struck a chord with everyone who knows—or is—a nurse like Caty: someone who puts so much of themselves into caring for their patients that they are physically and emotionally depleted by the end of their shift. When we see pictures like this and experience the emotions that go with it, instinctively we want to speak up. We want to acknowledge the sacrifices, recognize the selflessness, celebrate the capacity for caring that we see in the frame, and, somehow, make things better. And we can, according to Christy Dempsey, Press Ganey Chief Nursing Officer, by advocating organizational commitment to that goal.

DempseyBookIn her book, The Antidote to Suffering: How Compassionate Connected Care Can Improve Safety, Quality, and Experience, Dempsey stresses that it is incumbent upon health care leaders to nurture organizational cultures that support caring for caregivers as well as patients. Doing so, she says, requires acknowledging the complexity and gravity of caregivers’ daily work and providing the material, human, and emotional resources they need to thrive.

Prioritizing the development of cohesive, supportive care teams; modeling empathy and trust; enabling a positive work–life balance; and facilitating honest and open communication between caregivers and leaders will also make things better, Dempsey explains.

Certainly, there are stressors intrinsic to nursing that cannot be eliminated—dealing with death and dying, and bearing witness to others’ physical and emotional pain, for example—but there are many that are avoidable, such as multiple, consecutive long shifts; insufficient staffing; limited resources; poor collaboration; and inadequate communication flow. “The onus is on health care leaders to create a work environment that reduces caregiver suffering by eliminating the sources of avoidable stress,” according to Dempsey. Caty and the countless other nurses who are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health deserve nothing less.