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How to communicate that you care

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Offering your patients companionship will help them feel safe and supported

Every day is different within district nursing, and I face new challenges with every patient. This is particularly true in the Liverpool area because of the complex health needs of the population. But every day I realise how important a nurse’s communication skills are in making a patient’s journey as comfortable as possible.

I believe that as a district nurse, you are in an extremely honoured position, especially when nursing palliative care patients. This is an emotive situation, and family members welcome you - a stranger - into their home during this important time. They put all their trust in you and the difference you can make to their memories and experience is incomparable and unforgettable.

You are a guest in the patient’s home, and therefore I always try to act in a professional manner, while still showing empathy, compassion and respect for all those involved. I enjoy the nature of the profession, where you are able to develop lasting relationships with patients and their families.

Communication is such an important part of my role and an essential factor in showing compassion and learning more about the journey the patients are on, especially those requiring palliative care.

Tips for compassionate communication

  • It is a privilege to be on a journey with the patient so spend some time with them
  • People aren’t looking for sympathy and a solution - but just someone who listens
  • Say yes to that cup of tea - often companionship is all that the patient is seeking
  • Building up a patient’s trust and confidence is important part of them feeling safe about your level of competence

People are not looking for sympathy or a solution, but just want someone who listens and most of all cares about what they have been through.

I take the time to listen and show an interest in all patients - learning about the person they are, and not just about the diagnosis or clinical problem they have. It really makes a difference when you remember things they have told you about their life, and follow these up when next you meet. It shows you have listened to what is important to them as a person and not just focused on your priorities as a nurse.

Some of my patients have a small support network or, in some cases, none at all. Sometimes, as their nurse, I may be the only person they see all week. By making the time to say “yes” to that cup of tea and talking, it can make all the difference to how people feel. This considerably enhances my relationship with patients. Showing empathy in their situation and communicating that you really care about their experience and feelings can have a huge impact.

Ultimately, I want patients to be able to trust me and my clinical competence to care for them, and to ensure they feel safe and supported in my care. I am immensely proud to be a community nurse partly due to being able to make such a huge difference in people’s lives just by coming to work, even if sometimes all people really want is to talk.

Helen Marshall is a district nurse at Liverpool Community Health Trust. She has been with the trust since 2008 as a community nurse

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