We spend an amazingly tiny amount of time around here talking about how to deal with actual real human beings.  Maybe it’s assumed we already know what we’re doing.  Or maybe it’s assumed that we’ll just figure it all out on the fly as we go. 

The more I think about that attitude of “they’ll figure it out” the more it makes me mad.  Clearly we have to know all the science to be able to successfully diagnose and treat a patient, but isn’t there a little more to it than that?  A patient isn’t just an amalgamation of symptoms that shows up at your door and says “fix me.”  They are way more complicated than that; they’re human beings just like the rest of us.  A patient isn’t just their chief complaint, they are a living breathing human being with feelings sitting in front of you in some sort of distress and you have to treat them as such.

This brings me to NURSing.  In my first semester here we had this kooky Professor for our Doctor-Patient Relationship class who made us go over interview skills and NURSing every class.  None of us had ever heard of this mysterious NURS concept before and everybody sort of thought it was a joke (Medical students learning about nursing? Whaaaa?).  But it’s not a joke, it’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s useful, and it’s something that we as human beings, not just medical students should be doing all the damn time. 

To NURS someone means to acknowledge how they are feeling, show some empathy for that feeling, treat them like a reasonable human being, and offer support.  See?  Name, Understand, Respect, Support = NURS.  NURSing someone is just listening empathetically without judgment.  You’d be amazed at how well this diffuses tense situations and comforts people.  And you’d be amazed at how often you don’t do this.

The next time someone comes to you with bad news or good news or just a random story about their hateful coworkers or whatever… STOP OFFERING ADVICE.  Please, I beg of you.  Stop.  No one wants to hear your take on their relationship with their mother or their boss or their boyfriend.  They just don’t.  And you probably don’t know anything useful about plumbing or electricity or child-rearing.  SO STOP GIVING ADVICE ABOUT IT; you’re just making an already stressful situation more difficult.  I know you just want to help.  And that’s a great response, but sometimes, okay, most of the time, you’re not actually helping.    Most of the time all anyone wants is someone to listen.  Just keep repeating to yourself NAME, UNDERSTAND, RESPECT, SUPPORT.   

Try it?  Once?  For me? 

Really vague NURS example that works for a lot of situations:
      You seem really stressed/depressed/upset/frustrated/tense/nervous, but with  everything that’s going on for you that only makes sense.  You’ve been handling this really well so far.  If there’s anything I can do, let me know, okay?

*I do realize the irony of me giving the advice to “stop giving advice,” but you’ll just have to trust me on this one…


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