The power of touch

Jochen Sands | Digital Vision | Thinkstock

The most powerful healing tool gets lost in the background to the buzzing, beeping, clicking and shuffling. The rhythms of a nursing unit set the pace of the day. An alarm sounding, a timer beeping, and a monitor blipping. Rush, rush, rush to the next task at hand, all the while treating our patients like another piece of equipment. I too am guilty of this sin. I get caught up in the moment. I worry about time. I am mindful of the roar.

Thankfully, I had the pleasure of getting back to the basics the other day at work. Due to staffing needs / wants and census changes at the drop of a hat I was floated to a neighboring unit to function as a nurse aide.

It’s no secret how I feel about that job and the angels that perform their duties on a daily basis (here and here) , so stepping into their shoes was a great opportunity to maintain my perspective.

I was reminded how powerful the art of ‘touch’ can be. During my shift, I lost count on how many bed baths I gave. Most of the bed baths were done at light speed by the end of the morning, but the first few of bed baths I was able to take my time.

During the bed bath I was able to chat with my patients, learn about them, talk with them about any and everything that was on their mind. I was also able to help alleviate many fears and concerns they were having about their hospital stay.

I can’t say I give the greatest bed baths. Heck, I’d be willing to admit I’m actually quite horrible at it (to this day I can never hold the darn hand towel correctly!). What I AM good at is having a soft hand and light touch. It’s a dying art in the present fast-paced world. But, having the ability to move a patient correctly, safely and gently holds more value to the patient than we care to admit.

One of the greatest compliments I got that day at work was from an elderly gentlemen who was making a slow recovery from a life-changing surgery recently. As I was cleaning up my ‘mess’ of dirty linens and tidying up his room he reached out his hand gesturing me to come closer. He took hold of my forearm ever so gently with his frail but firm hand and said, “Thank you. You did a good job”.

I gotta tell ya. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled longer.

I’m not sure he realized how powerful his touch was for me.

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One Response to The power of touch

  1. Granny RN RN

    Sean: Your story illustrates why I still count the 2 years that I worked as a Nurses’ Aide while in school to become an RN when people ask ‘How long have you been a Nurse?’
    I learned and experienced SO much in that early role which has stayed with me for all of the years as an RN.
    I have, when given the option as Charge Nurse, picked an experienced and trusted Patient Care Technician (modern term for Nursing Assistant) over an RN from another unit simply because some ‘PCTs’ are more of a ‘help’ in some situations.