patient centered careAccording to Wikipedia, patient-centered care supports active involvement of patients and their families in the design of new care models and in decision-making about individual options for treatment. The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

When you hear the term ‘patient-centered’ care, are you like most people who believe that the most important person in this model is the patient?

It’s Not Who You Think

Want to know who the most important person in the patient-centered care model is? It’s not the patient. It isn’t the family. And we can all agree it isn’t the doctor, provider or surgeon. It’s You!

Airline Safety

I’m sure you’ve heard of the following. While these messages may become broken records, overplayed in our minds, in the case of the patient-centered care model- we cannot overlook metaphors.

  • Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First (Before Helping Any Others You May be Traveling With)
  • You’re Tank Can’t Run on Empty: Fill Yourself Up First
  • How Can You Give from an Empty Cup?

It’s a Selfless Act of Kindness

A common rebuttal to the reminders above is: ‘Putting me first means that I am selfish‘.

This is crazy. When we really stop to think about it (the airline one being the most powerful reminder), if we don’t take care of ourselves first we actually put others in harms way! If I am traveling with a child, a disabled friend or a grandmother with dementia… and I don’t put my own mask on first… guess what’s likely to happen in the rare case of an emergency?

You got it- I pass out and then am no help to them. Which means they actually are at greater danger because I didn’t help myself first!

  • Nurse Self-Care: Who is at the heart of the patient centered care model? #nursingfromwithinAt Work: Work is a tricky one. Often we don’t get much ‘time’ for ourselves. When we have patients to take care of (and many times- not enough staff to do it with), we tend to put our needs (even the most basic like food, water and bathroom) last. One way we can slowly invite ourselves to put us first is by turning to our breath. Before we enter a patient’s room, stop and pause. Feel your feet connected to the floor. Put your presence into your physical body. Notice your breath and exhale any tension you may be carrying in your shoulders. When you enter the room, make eye contact and continue to breathe as you talk with the patient in front of you. Doing this not only puts you and your physical body first; it makes the patient feel grounded and tended to.
  • At Home: Figure out a hobby (non-nursing related) that you love to do. If you can’t think of anything, look to your past for clues. What games did you play growing up? Where did you spend your time? What did your parents have to drag you away from at dinnertime because you were having so much fun doing something else? Even if you only have time once a week, take the small moments you may have to do something fun and uplifting for yourself. Get a massage. Go for a walk in the woods. Read a book. Knit a blanket. Make it a point to do one thing for yourself each week.
  • In Life: The very best way to put your patients first is to be able to cope with anything that comes your way. We all have challenging work environments, difficult politic structures and/or bureaucracies to deal with on the job. At home we have families to take care of and bills to pay. Life can be tough. However, if we can view things as lessons to be learned- finding growth and teaching in each challenge- our outlook can ease up. When we can love and feel comfortable with our own selves- we are that much more likely to give great care to our patients each day. Practice loving, enjoying and feeling blessed by the very fact that you are you. Every single day.

We hear a lot about the art and science of nursing. While many of us can probably perform nursing skills in our sleep (think of a phlebotomist who is drawing blood on her three thousandth patient), often we find it much more challenging to practice the kind of care that called us into the nursing profession in the first place.

The tips above can be three ways that you welcome more of the ‘art‘ into your nursing career.

Live Nursing from Within

Finally, I’d like to close with one more suggestion. The very best way to practice patient-centered care- to really be there for your patients and their families- is through a very simple and effective way of being a nurse. Instead of being the nurse that you think everyone wants you to be… be the very best nurse you can be.

Simply by being yourself.

Nurse Blog CarnivalRecently I read an article about a male nurse who loved to sing. He would sing in the hallways, in patient rooms, and while preparing his medications. His voice was beautiful and he started to attract an audience. Patients would come out of their rooms and stand in their doorways, just to hear his healing voice.

That nurse wasn’t adding any particular skill to his tool-kit. He didn’t add any specific specialty to the letters after his name. Basically by being himself, showing up at work as his true self- he was able to help the patients on his unit.

Can you tap into your authentic nurse within to up-level the patient-centered care model where you work? And if so… how?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. What do you do to take care of yourself so that you can show up as the very best nurse for your patients? Why is it important to take care of ourselves and put us first so that we can practice patient-centered care where we work each and every day? Thanks for reading and I invite you to leave a comment below.

(This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at Big Red Carpet Nursing. Find out how to participate.)

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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