It is the personal beliefs and values of individuals which often guide one to become a nurse, and these also serve to shape the attitude to practice. Most nurses are passionate about caring for the sick; however personal beliefs can interfere with the capacity to provide appropriate care.
No matter how open minded nurses feel they are to other cultures and backgrounds, a lack of knowledge regarding the specifics of that other culture can result in difficulties in administering care, interpretation of instructions or understanding compatibility of the medical model of disease with the framework understood in a particular culture. Fadiman (2002) described such a situation in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which described a young girl in California of Hmong heritage who was born with a difficult to treat epilepsy, and the misunderstandings and incompatibility of beliefs which led to a breakdown of treatment which caused irreparable harm. Because the healthcare teams had little understanding of Hmong disease models and spirituality, they did not understand how the treatments would be interpreted, particularly the administration of medicine. This is but one example, as patient situations which challenge the values or beliefs of individual nurses
One first step that is easy to take for nurses, with regard to managing such situations, is not to assume that the patient has similar beliefs. This can be a difficult task, particularly if deep personal beliefs are in conflict with those of the patient. This might include feelings about drug abuse which interfere with a patient’s willingness to disclose critical information, or it may simply result in withdrawal of the patient if they feel they are being misunderstood or judged. Another example of such a situation is the vaccination of children, as many parents feel very strongly about it (Gaudino & Robison, 2012). One can imagine that the roots of this problem are very deep, given the initially religious nature of those performing nursing duties (O’Brien, 2013).
I complete the life-changes questionnaire, and discovered that a score of 11 like I received indicates that stress is having an impact on my body and my health.
Dealing with stress is often said to be mind over matter, but perhaps it is stress itself where this capacity of the mind to impact the body becomes very clear. Not only does a greater stress level result in physical symptoms such as headaches and neck tension, it also has impacts on behaviors which have a negative impact on health, including smoking, drinking and overeating. Stress has an effect on everyone, but it can also serve to worsen situations. This can often be true for patients and their friends and family when there is an acute or chronic health issue. There can be stress because of the uncertainty of what will happen, or other reasons, such as when the provider of a family may not have the capacity to work. In general, when people are sick, they are stressed.
With regard to helping patients, the advice given during the safety notice at the beginning of a flight applies here: put your own oxygen mask on before you try to assist another person. The reason for this is simple; if you do not have and understanding of your own emotions and the potential interference of personal beliefs, then it is more likely that proactive steps will not be taken to explore potential conflict, misunderstandings or treatment considerations.
Understanding stress and its effects changes my view of patient behavior because I can better understand my role in mitigating such stress as a nurse. The stress of ill health is already great; stress causes impacts on health and behavior that can make a difficult situation worse. As a nurse it is important that I do not make assumptions or judgements which have the potential to interfere with excellence in patient care.