The Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, published a study called, How Do Health Professionals Maintain Compassion Over Time, which provided insights from a study of compassion in healthcare.
While this came before the pandemic, it poignantly foretells of what would follow shortly after, which is compassion fatigue and fatigue in general in the medical community and with nurses alike.
The truth is that medical professionals are overworked and often spread thin, and they are required to care for patients around the clock as well as maintain their own lives and contribute to their own households and communities.
For Omotoyosi Ogedengbe, a nursing student who made the decisive career transition from accounting to caring for the elderly, compassion comes naturally.
Ogedengbe says she never wants to become disillusioned with nursing because caring for people is something that’s important to her, and she sees the daily struggles that the elderly go through constantly, whether it be with their health or even with loneliness in the absence of their family.
Compassion is one of the most important virtues in medicine, and it is expected from medical professionals and anticipated by patients, as published in Compassion as the foundation of patient-centered care: the importance of compassion in action in the Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research.
The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as providing care that is respectful and responsive to individual patients. It actively considers their needs and values while maintaining that the patient’s values also guide the clinical decisions.
The other important element is, of course, compassion.
Omotoyosi Ogedengbe has had first-hand experience with caring for elderly patients and individuals with memory loss, and she says compassion has been the key part to ensuring she builds trust with her patients and performs her care duties to the best of her ability.
One key aspect to her approach in caring for the elderly and showing compassion is by improving their immediate environment and taking the time to understand their story.
“It’s as simple as bringing them photos to put in their rooms. Their sons and daughters should put pictures in their space, or build albums and add memories so that they can be surrounded by the things that matter to them. These are constant reminders that they are loved and cared for,” says Ogedengbe.
Omotoyosi Ogedengbe maintains that it’s even easier for nurses to feel compassion when they feel like they know a person. When patients share their life stories, it makes it even easier to get to know them and to care on an even deeper level. Photos are great conversation starters. They can prompt questions and spark curiosity, and such a simple measure is a step in the right direction.
Ogedengbe says caring for patients around the clock can be difficult, which is why it’s so important to take a step back and think about how we can be caring for our elderly. She says we should provide them with even higher quality care as we learn more about their individual patient needs.
“That’s why speaking to them kindly and listening to them and validating them is also important.”
Since Ogedengbe works with patients who experience memory loss, she says it’s important to listen to them even if it might not make sense immediately. If you think critically about what the patient is telling you, you’ll begin to understand what their thoughts and ideas are rooted in, and you will learn how to better care for the patient and meet their needs according to their individual unique value system.
In a career that requires you to meet the needs of many people simultaneously, it’s easy to feel hurried and overwhelmed, but by being as present as possible and building on the ways in which you can be more compassionate, you can make a difference in the lives of your patients.
For Omotoyosi Ogedengbe, the nursing journey has only started and compassion is a quality that is here to stay. It’s the foundation of care, as well as a tool for deeper understanding and fulfillment for everyone.