The time spent in the Medical Surgery unit provided me with insight into patients’ lives, into their respective diseases or illnesses, and into meaningful and constructive ways to establish a relationship with them that helped me attend to them with more compassion and more understanding.

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My first patient, a 71-year-old woman named Ms. Smith, was suffering from symptoms related to being born with renal agenesis. Over the years, Ms. Smith has developed urinary infections and underwent a unilateral kidney transplant operation in 2005. Due to complications, Ms. Smith reported some pain linked to constipation issues. My tasks were to conduct a spirometry test and to explain its beneficial effects, to attend to the patient’s dressing and to clean it regularly so as to avoid further complications such as possible infections, to administer PRN medication, and to ensure that the patient drank adequate amounts of fluids.

Practicalities aside, I earned the patient’s trust as our time spent together became more regular and more frequent. In any situation, a patient requires proper doses of medication to be administered and post-op treatments to be explained in calm, rational tones. However, I firmly believe that patients recover thanks to a meaningful relationship that is established between the patient and the nurse. In this regard, it is essential to make the patient feel comfortable in the nurse’s presence and to initiate a rapport with the patient that will stress communication at all times. As such, Ms. Smith asked more and more questions about the spirometry test. Due to her physical condition and to her advanced age, Ms. Smith needed both physical and emotional support at all times. As such, I helped her brush her teeth, applied skin lotion to her body, and gave her leg massages. In spending increasing amounts of time with Ms. Smith, I learnt why compassion should be valued in the nursing profession: it helps build trusting and reciprocal relationship that breaks down barriers between the nurse and the patient.

My second patient, 44-year old Mr. Francis, had just undergone an operation related to colorectal cancer. When I first walked into his room, Mr. Francis appeared depressed, sitting in the dark. As our conversation began, however, he seemed to perk up and demonstrated more ease in answering my questions. Mr. Francis reported that the previous night had been “rough” given that he had complications urinating and was suffering from bouts of abdominal pain for four hours during the night. These issues put aside, Mr. Francis seemed to be tolerating his post-surgery situation well. I helped as much as I could in providing emotional support to this 44-year-old man by attending to his dressing, measuring his vital signs, and explaining the benefits of opting for a low-fibre diet. In addition to interacting with Mr. Francis’s wife and two children when they came for visits, I ensured to be as gentle and compassionate as I could be with Mr. Francis, who was discharged the following day.

These two cases demonstrate my commitment to being a compassionate, attentive nurse. Attending to the small, relatively mundane aspect of things in life like changing the bed sheets or explaining how to use a colostomy bag can make all the difference in the world for our patients. Most of the time, patients are admitted into the medical surgery unit of our hospitals in an emotional fraught state of mind. They are often frightened, bewildered, anxious and only too willing to go back home, yet they have to face the hardships, both physical and emotional, of post-surgery situations. That is where clinical nursing as a profession becomes a valued practice. By seeking to understand, providing physical and emotional support, and by building a strong relationship, clinical nurses can help patients overcome the many difficulties they face in hospitals and begin the slow process of recovery.