Recently, while doing some yearly maintenance touch ups at a hospital, I was talking with my client who is a nurse manager of the Pediatric ER. I was talking with her about the role of the healthcare provider to create a compassionate environment. I have long been concerned that we are expecting nurses to wear every imaginable hat in their role as a care giver. My client shared that from her perspective it is asking more than you can expect to assume that nurses have the capacity for compassion much of the time. She was very sympathetic to nurses talking about how many patients they are required to care for on their shift and what is required of them in terms of paperwork and monitoring. So there is a lot of stress involved right there? My client also explained how many nurses are taking prescription drugs or using alcohol to deal with the stress. As we all know, stress over time makes an appearance in health problems and mental breakdown. I’ve worked in some facilities for 30 years installing murals and I’ve had nurses confide in me about feeling overworked and how the stress was affecting their well being. So I would not be on board for expecting patient satisfaction ratings for a compassionate experienced to be based solely on what a nurse or clinician is able to express. I think it’s a lot to ask of someone focusing on protocol and procedure. Most of the time there is a machine between the patient and the nurse. That alone dissolves opportunity for connecting with a patient. The solution? I’ve always thought that a Compassion Advocate is the answer for hospitals. Someone whose sole position is to provide comfort, reassurance and support to patients. Another solution is creating an environment of compassion that speaks volumes so that what is lacking in personal attention from a nurse with a hectic schedule,is made up for by the ambiance of the physical surroundings.
I have the utmost respect for nurses and physicians – especially when I need one! But as a designer, and having been a hospital patient more than once, I think more could be done to uplift and console patients and to make a positive impression. Expecting nurses to be the sole provider of compassion needs to be rethought. Considering artwork, design and a Compassion Advocate™ are places to look if your goal is to provide a great patient experience.