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Twelve Ways Patients Give Back to Their Caregivers

During this season of singing about twelve days of gifts from our true love, let’s explore “twelve ways” our patients give back to nurses, therapists, and caregivers.  Instead of partridges in a pear tree, turtle doves, or golden rings, we will focus on w

During this season of singing about twelve days of gifts from our true love, let’s explore “twelve ways” our patients give back to nurses, therapists, and caregivers.  Instead of partridges in a pear tree, turtle doves, or golden rings, we will focus on what you are getting in return for all of your hard work, compassion, and care.  Most of the time, you may not even realize that your patient is giving back to you, so read on to see how this is happening.

  1.  Your patients help you refine your listening skills.  Whether in the organized chaos of an Emergency Room or the pressure of an exam room, your job requires you to focus and listen carefully, making sure you aren’t missing any critical information.
  2. Without even noticing, your patients have taught you patience.  First, there is the patience you have to display when face to face with them in the exam room.  Taking the time to collect information, perform a procedure, or administer the necessary care requires you to have patience.  Secondly, you receive patience in reverse.  When you are running behind, and your patient has had to wait longer than they probably should, they still exhibit a great sense of appreciation that you are there to help them. 
  3. Throughout your career, you are forced to find that reserve of energy and effort that you didn’t know you had.  We’ve all been there, nearing the end of a long shift with frayed nerves, your stomach growling, when a new patient shows up throwing everything out the window.  Without hesitation, you are tapping into a hidden reserve of energy, calm, and professionalism to save a life.
  4. Another way your patients give back is through daily lessons about the uniqueness of individuals.  In your job, it is impossible to brush people with broad strokes because everyone arrives as an individual and has to be treated as such.  There is no “one size fits all” patient; each has specific needs, different backgrounds, and vastly different life experiences.
  5. Your patients remind you every day to practice what you preach.  You are motivating them to kick a bad habit, becoming more active or paying attention to nutrition.  While counseling your patients about healthy choices, you are subliminally having the same conversation with yourself.
  6. No matter what struggles you have in your personal life, your patient is always there to boost your self-esteem.  They have no idea what is happening with you behind the scenes.  What they do know is that you are there for them and are someone they can trust.
  7. Each day, your patients provide you with the gift of trust.  Historically, nurses and other medical careers have ranked at the top of the “most trusted occupations” lists.  When the bond between patient and caregiver is a two-way street built on trust and teamwork, the outcomes are usually successful.
  8. Sometimes when you need it most, a patient teaches you that there is still wonder in this world.  From saving a life to helping someone regain their mobility after an accident, there is no shortage of inspiration and awe in medical care.
  9. Patients motivate your personal growth and self-fulfillment.  They don’t try to be, they don’t even know you, but their circumstances often lead you to reach beyond your comfort zone in ways you never considered.  Sometimes it’s learning new procedures, or volunteering to lead a team, or inspiring you towards continuing education.  Each patient interaction is open-ended and can result in leading you down a new path.
  10. In difficult situations, our patients display a wonderful sense of humor.  How many times have you cracked up your friends with a joke heard from an older patient in the exam room that day?  Patients can be endless sources of funny stories and anecdotes, and there is no limit to the amount of “material” you can gather during a shift.  Who knows, you may even end up with a side career at the Laugh Factory.
  11. Your medical career prompts you to become a teacher.  From helping a family advocate for their aging parent or showing an uncertain new mother how to nurse their newborn baby, you spend a lot of time teaching.
  12.  A hidden gift you receive is a reminder to appreciate the little things.  Everyone experiences the occasional rut where the daily routine turns into “punching the clock”?  However, to your patients, you are doing so much more than that.  You are helping them get back on their feet, providing comfort in times of need, or helping them manage a chronic illness.  Recognizing how much you are appreciated is the best way to get beyond the clock!

At this time of year, we all have much to be thankful for as nurses, therapists, and caregivers.  Being a medical professional provides us with opportunities, challenges, variety, and the daily chance to make an impact on others.  Whether it’s the proverbial twelve days or six months from now, think about all you get back from your patients.  You will soon realize that it’s a lot more than ‘five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and those pesky partridges in a pear tree.'