What Is Compassionate Care Really?

I quickly returned with the warm blanket and 1mg of morphine in hand. “Let’s get that pain under control,” I said. I gave him the morphine and repositioned him using the warm blanket on his back. John reported immediate pain relief, however his facial expression still held the same grimace of discomfort. This time, I followed his gaze and noticed his wife, still appeared visibly distressed as well. Even though I could hear the hustle and bustle of activity outside, I decided to stay in the room to talk with his wife for an extra 5 -10 minutes.

We talked about Petaluma, their house, the farm they raised, their children, and eventually, she began talking about his heart. She explained the journey they had been through and the countless times she had thought she would lose him. She revealed how emotionally exhausted she was and how she wasn’t sure she had the strength to handle the house, the ranch, and all of the medical ups and downs all on her own. Though I gave some suggestions on how to manage some of her fears, I mostly just listened. After she finished she said, “Oh, thank you so much for allowing me to have that release. I feel relief and, oddly enough, I feel stronger for having let all of that out.” I told her that she allowed me to do what I love by being able to help give both of them a form of relief. As I walked out, I noticed the atmosphere in the room was entirely different. The anxiety had dissipated. John, looked at me, a smile briefly flashed across his face as he gave a small nod to his wife, who was looking down. He winked and said, “Thank you for all your help.” His wife looked up, also thanked me and insisted I come visit them at their ranch. As I walked back into the busy hallway, I knew that, although the morphine provided John with some pain management, the real relief for him came from the emotional support I had given to his wife of forty-seven years.


Author: Brittany Aanestad, RN BSN. I work on a med/surg, telemetry and pediatrics unit at Petaluma Valley Hospital in California. I have worked at PVH since graduating from nursing school in 2010 from CSU Chico. I live in Petaluma with my husband, one-year-old daughter, and two dogs: a 9-year-old Great Dane and a 14-year-old Golden Retriever. Although this story was not an experience from nursing school, I feel many nurses can relate to these moments in everyday care that imprint our hearts and influence our nursing styles.

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