The following article is reproduced from the October 22, 2012 issue of the Weekly Healing with Heart Reflections Newsletter, with permission from Martin Helldorfer and Moss Communications.
While I was facilitating a workshop in San Antonio, Texas, I heard a nurse voice what I thought was a pivotal insight for those of us who care for patients. She was someone known for her knack of understanding how to deal with difficult patients. “Is there a secret in how you do it?” someone asked. “No,” she responded, “all I do is remember that I always see patients at their worst, never their best.”
When she was asked to explain, she said (and I paraphrase):
“Think about it. We only see people when they are hurting. They’ve fallen down stairs, tripped on a rock, had an operation, are in pain, have had their futures changed by illness, have stroked, are about to lose a loved one, or are nauseous. Only patients who are delighting in their newborn are feeling good about themselves, and even among those patients there are some who are struggling. Like I mentioned, we don’t see patients at their best, we see them at their worst.”
Then she added, “When I meet a difficult patient, I try to remember that this person has a better self that I don’t see and will likely never see. Realizing that awakens my warmth, which really does influence the way I work.”
After a moment of quiet where we were absorbing the meaning of her words, she added. “I guess there is a secret. We always have to remember that we are here for patients, not ourselves. Sure there are rewards, but you can’t be looking for them. You’ve got to have enough presence of mind to keep your focus on the needs of patients. If difficult patients bother you, you’re in the wrong profession!”
Her thoughts got me thinking about myself as well as those with whom I work. When we are rested and feeling okay about ourselves, warmth is awakened and caring for others is welcomed. The problem comes when we have lost perspective or are overwhelmed. Is there a more compelling reason to care for ourselves—mind, body, and spirit—than that we have the professional responsibility to care for others?
by Martin C. Helldorfer www.mosscommunications.net