Written by Frances Bergenstein, Clinical Nurse Educator, Surrey Memorial Hospital

“Nursing is not just about taking care of the physical body; it is about taking care of the person as a whole.” Clinical Nurse Educator Frances Bergenstein shares the story behind her six word story.

My six word story is “Take time – listen to someone’s story.”

Have you ever listened to someone’s story and been captivated by it? How did that make you feel? And if you were the one who told the story and someone really listened, was that even more exciting? As children we were read stories by our parents at bedtime, and this either put us to sleep, or got us excited wanting more.

In health care, listening to a patient’s story is crucial in determining the cause of the medical event that led to the patient’s hospitalization. As nurses, we are often run off our feet, with pressures to provide care for patients needing emergent attention. We often have difficulty spending time to truly listen. However, when that precious time is spent, the outcome could mean better patient care. The purposeful attention of listening and engaging and asking a deliberate follow-up question can be therapeutic to the patient, and can offer health care providers a better history to create a better care plan. It creates a trusting, respectful and restorative environment.

I once had a palliative patient who was anxious and crying. On listening to her story, I discovered she wanted to spend her last few weeks with her beloved dog, which we could make happen by completing some paperwork. Seeing her reaction when her puppy came to visit for the first time was beyond description. She was so excited, smiling from ear to ear, and the puppy was excited as well, with wagging tail and a happy demeanor. Her anxieties diminished and the dog was the missing link that helped provide comfort. This was a love story with a happier ending, and I am certain there are more stories out there with the same results.

Taking the time to listen is crucial. The intricacies of a person’s complex needs are revealed, getting to know the person behind the diagnosis. That’s important because nursing is not just about taking care of the physical body; it is about taking care of the person as a whole.

What's your six word story? Submit yours to stories@fraserhealth.ca and browse all the stories here.

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