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Being an Emotionally Invested Nurse

Right now I am sitting with my nephew, Nate. He is recovering from one of his three surgeries that he has had over the past three months. As I am caring for him, I can’t help but think about the journey he is forced to travel. My husband is an LVN and has been helping my sister care for him. As a student in an LVN to RN program, it’s interesting the impact that your emotions can have as you care for your patients (whether they’re related to you or not).

I think one of the hardest decisions that nurses make (both consciously and unconsciously) is how emotionally invested to get into your patients’ lives. Of course there is the level of professionalism that you must maintain, but sometimes you can’t help but feel an extra dose of compassion for certain individuals. Another factor to consider is the nursing specialty that you want to pursue. With oncology and chronic conditions, seeing patients on a regular basis also creates a stronger bond.

With my nephew and his current condition, it is so much easier for my husband to care for him than for my sister or myself. Pediatrics just tears at my heart (not to mention seeing our little boy in pain) too much but my husband can distance himself from his emotions (personally, I think it’s a lot easier for most guys to do that.)

Nate has obviously come into contact with quite a few nurses. Some stand-out in his mind and here are a few things that Nurse Michelle did that made his hospital stay better: she talked to him and tried to relate to him and not just talked to his parents. She went to extra mile to get Nate a better, private room. She visited him even when he was moved to another floor. Most of all, “she smiled a lot. When you’re in pain, doesn’t it make you feel better when someone smiles a lot?”

Interestingly enough, nothing that Nate mentioned had to do with her medical skills. Now I certainly don’t want to diminish the value of medical knowledge, but a willingness to help and genuine concern are also important attributes to have when working with patients.

As an RN nurse, it’s up to you how much you invest in your patients. It will take time and practice to know where your heart boundaries are and how to leave a hard day at work. But nursing is a terribly unique occupation where your highs and lows are going to be more intense than most other jobs.