Caring Through Hearing

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As Patty* told me that she had lost three of her four sons, I was stunned. How was it possible to have suffered so much loss? But there was more—she'd also been widowed three times and now lived alone. I listened intently to her story, overcome with compassion. The conversation had started because I'd inquired about how the anxiety medications were managing her condition. That question opened the door, and she shared intimate details of her loss. I became lost in the story of her life.
At that moment, I saw Patty as a fellow journeyer on life's road. Although I was her APRN, Patty's transparency increased our connection. I was reminded to listen and care on a deeper level. Sensing my care, and following her lead, she allowed me to pray with her for a sense of hope amidst her grief. I saw Patty in a new light; I was given a renewed perspective on what it means to care.
As an APRN, I know that caring for physical and mental health needs is what drove me to become a nurse. But this connection allowed me to care for Patty as a fellow human and opened in me a vulnerability that was beneficial to me, as well. All too often, in the drive to produce higher patient volume and metrics, our rushed healthcare system can easily distract us from an opportunity to care and connect while caring for physical needs.
APRNs are being driven to produce, as access to care continues to be a challenge in many areas of the country (National Governors Association, 2016). There is evidence that anticipates by the year 2019, the demand for primary care in the U.S. will increase to between 15 million and 25 million visits annually, requiring thousands more healthcare providers to meet the demand.
This drive to produce can remove individual care from the equation. Sometimes, the focus of care is transferred to completing the patient visits on the schedule. Caring can become lost due to time demands and overbooked schedules. I am challenged by how, amidst a crowd, Jesus saw individuals above all else (Matthew 9:36; Mark 8:2). While crowds pressed him, he “realized that power had gone out from him,” as a sick woman touched the hem of his garment (Mark 5:30; Matthew 9:20-22). Yarborough (2016) wrote,
It wasn't just the tug of a hand Jesus had felt. It was the tug of a heart. It was the tug of faith that he sensed. He knew someone had reached out to him in faith. Jesus scanned the crowd looking for who it was. He wasn't about to let this woman just get lost in the crowd. This woman came up to Jesus from behind. Jesus wanted her to come face to face with him, though. He wasn't satisfied just to be this lady's healer. He didn't want her to remain nameless and faceless. He wanted this woman to know that he knew . . . her.
Our challenge is to care from the heart. Our patients can bless us as we allow their stories to touch our lives. I am thankful for how patients help me see God's power to change lives. Although the demands of healthcare access continue, there is an equally increasing opportunity for APRNs to get back to the heart of caring and nurturing that defines nursing.
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