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hugging-salt-and-pepperNursing 101. Ok, maybe in just my Nursing 101 world. I vaguely remember being told, being taught, and/or instructed on Transference and Counter Transference.
I did a brief internet search and found this:

“Transference is the “transference” of past feelings, conflicts, and attitudes into present relationships, situations, and circumstances”

This meaning your patient is doing the transferring onto the nurse, and counter transference is simply the nurse transferring their feelings onto the patient. There were of course a myriad of other descriptions and websites touting the good, the bad and the ugly results of the two. What I could not find (mind you this was just a very brief search) was any mentioning of physical contact or ‘show’ of emotion.

So, back to Nursing 101.

I (once again- vaguely) remember learning somewhere in my basic education that we were to do our best to not show our true ’emotions’ at the bedside, nor were we to show empathy by means of hugging. I remember chuckling at that notion in nursing school thinking to myself – hug a patient? Hug a family member? Seriously?

It was conveyed that we were professionals, and that acting as a professional meant not showing ’emotions’. Professionals should not and do not hug.

Through the course of a nurse’s career, one learns that being a professional means being personal. The only thing to keep in mind is knowing when and where it is appropriate. The only time it’s not appropriate is when it interrupts or affects the care you need to provide (and that’s a whole other subject).

I’ve cared for my fair share of patients. I’ve also experienced my fair share of ’emotions’ involving loss. I unfortunately got a crash course in handling the death of a patient in my first week on my very first job as a nurse. So fresh from nursing school that I was still a GN – Graduate Nurse and not yet an RN – Registered Nurse. I hadn’t even taken my boards!

The death of a patient is difficult. Period. End. No further description needed. I don’t care if you took care of the patient once, twice, 1 week, 1 month. You become a part of that patient’s life. A part of that patient’s family’s life. So when they pass from this world, you do feel a sense of loss no matter how great or small.

I don’t know about you, but when a patient passes, and I am present. The family is present. Regardless of the way they pass. I feel it. I feel a sense of loss. And I’m empathetic with all the family.

I laugh with them. I cry with them. And yes. I even hug them.

I simply don’t know how to be any other kind of nurse.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Do you hug patients or their family members?

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