Balancing Empathy and Objectivity as a Nurse

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Nursing newborns on the neonatal ward! Nurses need to treat patients with respect and dignity. The best nurses also show empathy and compassion for their patients. But can empathy go too far? The answer is maybe.

As a nurse, if you are unable to maintain your professionalism and good judgment because you are emotionally involved, then it may be time to take a step back and evaluate the situation. The key is to find a balance between empathy and objectivity.

Why Empathy is Needed in Nursing

If you are working as a nurse and do not have any empathy for your patients, you may be in the wrong profession. Caring about your patient’s well-being is part of the job. Delivering medical care with compassion and empathy helps your patients feel more confident in the care they are getting. It also improves patient satisfaction. Patients who feel their medical team empathizes with them may also develop a sense of trust.

Why Objectivity is Needed in Nursing

Just as compassion and empathy are essential in order to provide good quality of care, objectivity is also needed. Objectivity allows a nurse to provide care without bias and with a certain sense of neutrality.  Becoming too involved emotionally, interferes with your ability to be objective.

If you are a medical clinician or plan to be, you may have heard you should not treat members of your family. This is because it is hard to remain objective. You may bring your own feelings and wishes into treatment decisions, which is not your job as a nurse.

Although you want to provide information and options in care, you do not want to make a patient feel forced to undergo a certain medical procedure or treatment. As a nurse, it is your job to provide care in a manner that respects your patient’s choices.

Walking the line between Empathy and Objectivity

It can sometimes be a difficult balance between caring about your patients and keeping a certain level of detachment. This may especially be true when patients come to the hospital frequently, and you get to know them over time.  For example, you may treat the same patient over the course of several months or even years. It is also naturally to feel bad when a patient is not doing well or dies. But if you get too involved personally, it may hinder the way you do your job. Keep the following suggestions in mind.

 

  • Maintain boundaries: It is perfectly acceptable to be friendly with your patients when you are caring for them. But there is a line you should not cross. Showing favoritism or giving out your home number is not appropriate. 
  • Don’t get too attached to your patients. Your patients are not there to become your friends. Nurses need to keep the relationship professional.  
  • Leave work at work. Caring for ill people can be difficult, and it can take its toll emotionally. Find ways to unwind and leave work behind.
  • Talk to a supervisor if a patient is inappropriate. There may be times a patient crosses the line beyond a nurse/patient relationship. Don’t hesitate to speak to your supervisor to determine the best way to handle the situation.
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