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Compassion is key: why empathy is so important as a nursing assistant

CareerBuilder | July 27, 2020

Compassion and empathy help Nursing Assistants discover important details in a patient's health.

Advances in medical treatment and care have helped our loved ones live well into their 80s and beyond. In fact, the number of Americans older than 85 is expected to double by 2050. This has had a dramatic impact on job creation, and the department of labor forecasts 3.2 million new jobs created in the healthcare field between 2008 and 2018.

Naturally, many of these new positions don't involve caring for the elderly, but come in the form of nursing assistants working across all medical channels. From pregnant women to ER cases, medical institutions are looking for hard-workers with one key trait: empathy. Keep reading to learn why this is such an important characteristic in a rapidly expanding industry.

Nursing Assistants Need to Set Aside Personal Biases

In order to understand the problems facing their patients, nursing assistants need to form a complete picture of their patients. This includes symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle choices. Then, regardless of how they feel about the patient in front of them, they have to treat them as best as they can. It doesn't matter whether their patient is suffering from a drug overdose or was shot by police while robbing a store, they are scared and they are hurt. Empathy plays a powerful role in setting aside any prejudice and treating patients how they would want to be treated.

Medical Professionals Use Compassion to Understand Patient Perspectives

As humans, we all react differently to stressful situations like medical emergencies and aging. It's easy to picture a sobbing mother worried about her son who broke his arm, but few picture the screaming parents yelling at the doctor for treatment or rude patients making sarcastic comments to the staff.

It's easy for the average person to dismiss these people and get frustrated by them, but nursing assistants learn to read between the lines. The screaming parents are scared that their child is getting worse, while the rude patients are in an unfamiliar environment and are trying to overcompensate. By practicing patience and compassion, nursing assistants are able to understand what they're really feeling, despite what they're saying.

Patients don't understand the typical medical lingo of doctors and nurses. They don't know what symptoms are important and how to express their pain. Empathetic nurses know this, and ask multiple questions in many different ways until they fully understand the situation.

A patient might walk into the clinic complaining of stomach pain, but other symptoms could point to the exact problem. Compassion instills a feeling of wanting to make patients get better, and nursing assistants know the best way to do this is to listen to everything the patient has to say, and then make a decision based on the information.

Empathy is a characteristic that reinforces the tools nursing assistants use throughout the day. It helps them listen, communicate, and make decisions. Without empathy and the care of nurses, hospitals and clinics wouldn't have the success rates they're known for, and patients would be much worse off.
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