Meeting Patients Where They Are

January 16th, 2018 By: Betty Long

One of the more difficult challenges a nurse (or healthcare professional) faces is to meet a patient where they are.  Not geographically, of course, but emotionally.  I learned this lesson far too young when my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I was just 23.

I was not a nurse then so I had no concept of meeting her where she was, but looking back, I wish I had.  We all encouraged her to get a second opinion, to fight, to not let the cancer win, etc., but my mom was tired and didn’t feel well.  She rallied for us, but four months later she was dead.

And just last week, I got caught up in my caring for a friend and lost sight of meeting her where she is at in terms of her health challenge.  Again, I suggested getting a second opinion—not because her doctor is a bad doctor–just because her clinical circumstances are unusual and I believe that two (physician) heads are better than one.

This time, though, I quickly realized what I was doing.  I called her and apologized.  She’s a nurse, too, so she understood that my energy was coming from a good place, a place that said, “I care.”  “Still, I said, I’m sorry I pushed you.  You’re right, I do care, but you are perfectly capable of making an informed decision.  I will support you and your decision.  And if you want to get a second opinion, I’ll help you set that up.”

Meeting patients where they are is about allowing patients to feel what they’re feeling and to decide what they want to do rather than projecting onto them what I want.  It’s not always easy, but it is worth it.

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