Relationships with patients, families and communities are at the core of our practice. Our unique knowledge of persons, families and communities and that which holds meaning for each, is a rich source of evidence that must guide our partnerships with them and each other.
I have always believed that the clinician-patient relationship, specifically knowing the patient and family, are two of the most powerful interventions we have to advance health and preserve the human experience. My research identified that when patients felt “known,” they felt recognized as unique human beings, they felt a meaningful, personal connection with their clinician, they felt safe and they felt empowered to participate in their care.
To know our patients as human beings means that we must be self-reflective enough to be mindful of our own unconscious biases and resist making assumptions about others. We must remain ever-inquisitive, asking the patient to tell us their story. It is in the telling of the story and the intimate knowledge gained, that the human-to-human connection emerges honoring the innate capacity of the other. It enables us to truly partner with patients and communities to advance their health in a way that is congruent with that which holds meaning to each. It is the pause, allowing the story to unfold, that brings joy to our clinical practice. In our busy environment, taking a deep breath and not jumping ahead requires practice and self-reflection.
In their book entitled “Prisoners of our thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s principles for discovering meaning in life and work,” Pattakos and Covey note that, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”
I continue to receive letters from patients every day that speak to your efforts to truly know your patients and communities. I want to thank you for all that you do to humanize the experience of caring partnerships each and every day.
Jackie Somerville, PhD, RN
Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services