Talking to patients can be challenging, and it can be a struggle to make a connection sometimes. You need to have a plan as to how you are going to play the interaction game, and it can feel like a particularly demanding game of chess at times. You may have to pick your words carefully, as not everyone is naturally trusting, especially towards someone that they have never met before i.e. a total stranger. What worked on patient A in room 2 may fail dismally with patient C in room 5. Everyone is different as are their responses to your attempts to make a connection. That is what it is all about, through use of all the communication skills that you have learnt, you try to make a connection with another person. How can I ‘click’ with the other person in order for us to have important conversations?
What do you have in common with a palliative care patient you may ask? They are suffering from a life-limiting illness, something that most of us do not have direct experience of ourselves, fortunately. They might be of a completely different culture or ethnicity from us, and might not even speak the same language as you. They might belong to a very different age group from us, and the generation gap can span decades in some cases. They are likely to be of an occupational background that has nothing to do with healthcare at all. They might be super-rich, or very, very poor. Their gender or sexual orientation may be markedly different from our own. So what do you have in common with them? Most of us on this planet are of the species Homo sapiens, (some people you know might have a bit more of Neanderthal than most, while others might be Homo superior.)
The human connection is how you make the connection with another person. Something that can easily be forgotten in the busy-ness of the day to day life of a Palliative Carer. I am concerned that healthcare practitioner training can result in the health carer losing some of their natural human perspective along the way. How would you feel if you were on the other side of the bed, if you were in the other person’s shoes? Keep that in mind in your interactions with our patients. Be gentle, be kind, and don’t be afraid to show them some of your inherent compassion that you have inside you towards your fellow human beings. Don’t forget that we are all in this – life – together.
Keep on trying to make those human connections. If plan A doesn’t work, try plan B, C, D… If your heart can speak to their heart, then difficult conversations can flow much more smoothly, with less stress experienced by both participants. Who knows you might actually enjoy yourself. I certainly do.