We know that the healthcare industry is a beast to navigate. Like many, I had a ringside seat early in my life in experiencing what the healthcare system can do to families. Everyone at one time of another uses the healthcare system. And those who find themselves dependent on the system experience the gaps, the confusion, and the loss of control amidst the complicated communications and decisions that have to be made.
Nurses Are Not Expected To Fix Everything
We as nurses see these situations everyday and are frustrated by them. The lesson is that we can rarely fix complicated situations in real time. Ironically, many patients and families understand this. These healthcare system complexities didn’t happen in a vacuum. Patients live in the same social, economic, technical and scientific environment that created the system. Patients don’t expect nurses to solve the ills of healthcare; most are just seeking connection in the midst of their healthcare struggles, someone to see them as people in an authentic way, however momentary.
Enter Nurses’ Humanity
This is where caring science enters and responds to the evolving wellness consciousness happening within our culture. Patients and families are searching for holistic responses, authenticity and real connections. Caring science is a field of study grounded in the discipline of nursing and is informed by science, the humanities and art. Humanity encompasses the needs and wants associated with being human, adding a dimension of sensitivity and understanding required in nursing.
Nurses’ sense of humanity is their source of insight into patient experiences of pain, suffering, fear, love, joy, forgiveness, etcetera. Science alone does not respond to humanity and caring. It is the humanities that give us paths to explore and more fully understand the depths of the human condition that nurses see up close every day.
Focus on Perspective Taking
Caring science draws on nurses’ sense of humanity to cultivate authenticity and connection that weave between the clinical interventions. Caring science focuses on perspective taking as well as problem solving, creating calm and solutions. This is where nurses offer healing breaths, ease to dwell in the moment, answer sensitive questions with simplicity, help clarify events, decisions, procedures, help focus feelings and meaning, and provide anticipatory guidance.
Other disciplines within healthcare —medicine, social work, psychology, nutrition, rehabilitation therapies, pharmacy—are responding to society’s call for wellness approaches and connection also. Yet nurses’ location in patients’ vulnerable moments is what is unique and specific to our discipline, often after the docs have cleared the room and before the social workers and other therapists step in.
Alignment of Nursing with Society
The public’s expectations for authenticity and connection in these vulnerable healthcare encounters align with nursing’s essence, authentic caring practices. These are the practices on which to build caring initiatives to expand caring consciousness. Jean Watson wrote nearly two decades ago, “The change will come when nursing and nurses are directly aligned with the people they serve”(p 46).