Compassion and nursing are bedfellows, but the Covid-19 pandemic has strained this symbiotic relationship. What once was conveyed by touch and nonverbal communication, no longer can be because of the need for social distancing and PPE. It can make compassionate care difficult.
The use of PPE, particularly face masks and gloves, form a barrier to communication and expressing compassion. One study found that patients perceived healthcare professionals in PPE as lacking empathy and that it had a negative impact on the relationship between the patient and the healthcare provider.
Patients perceive compassion as an awareness of distress and the act of moving from that awareness towards a desire to actively relieve that distress, reports Nursing Times. Touch is a way to signal to patients that nurses are practicing these aspects of compassionate care. And, studies have shown that touch — task-orienting, comforting, or emotionally containing, is in greater need by patients who have been isolated and separated from their families because of severe or terminal illness, age, or chronic pain.
Touch is a powerful tool for expressing the kindness and building the trust in which compassionate care thrives. It is a way to communicate attention, sympathy, closeness, reassurance, and presence. This is why it is important to employ alternative ways to communicate compassion.
6 ways to practice compassionate nursing while wearing PPE
Sometimes small actions can make a difference. Whether it is using your voice differently, pantomiming your feelings, or relying on your eyes more to relay your emotions, there are ways to show compassion toward your patients through your PPE. Try some of these suggestions from the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network:
Consider how you hold your body. How abrupt are your movements—around, toward, and away from your patient? What is your posture like? What is your head doing? Where are your hands resting?
Connect with your eyes. Be present and don’t interrupt. If you sense sadness, look them in the eyes with kindness and gently touch your heart.
Hug yourself. Fold your arms around your body and stroke one of your arms gently. This can also work if you rock slightly side-to-side instead. Both can be soothing movements for the patient as well as a calming one for you.
Use hand signals: the ok sign, two hands applauding, thumbs up, a gentle wave, fingers crossed, palms together in prayer sign, two arms raised in a hurray gesture.
Sing. Consider gently singing or humming while performing interventions or care. If you’re not sure what to sing, check what songs calm your children, if you have any, down or look to your playlist for songs that bring you a sense of peace and quiet.
Use the tone of your voice. Speak to your patients as you would if you are soothing a small frightened child.
Do you have any suggestions to add? Leave it below or share with others at #PatientCare on Huddle.