Empathy for Patients and Noisy Nurses: The Path to Therapeutic Environments for Both

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In 7/12/2012 Hospital Impact article, Balancing Act:  Sustaining Patient Experience Efforts by organizational effectiveness expert, Jason Wolf, he discusses how leaders, people, and organizational cultures play an integral and critical role in sustaining positive patient experience.  To bring his point home consider the case of the noisy nurses’ station.

Creating a therapeutic environment for patients seems like an obvious goal for any healthcare facility and noisy nurses’ stations an obvious a barrier.  Recently, a friend was sharing her experience in the hospital and sharing how frustrating it was to hear nurses and doctors laughing and talking.  I knew what she was talking about and could easily empathize with her.  I also know this issue is a challenge to hospitals competing for best customer survey results and, as a nurse,  felt a little defensive.

Noisy nurses’ stations may interfere with a patient’s sleep, comfort and even trust of caregivers.  A knee jerk reaction might be to think that the nurses are being inconsiderate and somehow mandate  quiet!

A more proactive approach will look deeper into the problem while respecting the complexity and demands of nursing work.

We must create therapeutic environments for patients AND healthy workplaces for nurses! Click To Tweet

Are Nurses at the Fire All the Time?

The high-stakes, high-stress work environments that nurses practice in are incredibly demanding intellectually, physically, and emotionally.  Patient alarms, clinical assessment, shifting priorities, tragedy, challenging family dynamics, constantly shifting priorities, intimidating physicians, passive-aggressive colleagues help to describe the minute to minute world of nursing care.  Meanwhile, inadequate staffing and sicker patients result in unrelenting stress.  It is as if nurses are “at the fire” ALL the time!

Why are Nurses’ Conversations Important?

  • Optimize learning opportunities for sharing knowledge about clinical issues, organizational changes, new technology and patient/family needs.
  • Support for stress.
  • Time for team-building.

Noisy nurses’ stations are not appropriate, but ensuring time and place for nurses to talk is!

How Can We Create Therapeutic Environments for Patients AND Nurses?

This is a super question to ask nurses!   Or even better, nurses AND patient advocates!




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4 Responses to Empathy for Patients and Noisy Nurses: The Path to Therapeutic Environments for Both

  1. Interesting topic, Beth. I’ve seen conflicting hospital build outs in the last 10 or 15 years. Serene, well insulated, quiet zones are often nestled in “natural” environments for patients and family to appreciate. On the other hand, what’s happened to nurse breakrooms? Areas to decompress, converse, refresh are often not considered in the planning. Is it cost containment? Are breaks within a 12 hr shift no longer necessary? I doubt it!

    • Thank you Stephanie. It is the same mindset that wants nurses to be assertive for patients but not for themselves. A lack of support for nurses and the work we do. Pharmacists and bank tellers have quieter zones and cultures….

      This is a bit snarky, but maybe the ideas that nurses shouldn’t really take breaks or with consistent and/or excessive workloads they won’t have time for breaks have something to do with the disappearance of space where we can put our tired feet up and talk. Organizations that support nurses with space and staffing are doing more for patient safety and patient experience than is measurable!

  2. Beth Boynton says:

    Your comment is very inspiring and encouraging, Alexandra. Thank you. Sometimes raising awareness is such a vital step yet not always easy to place value on or determine measurable outcomes from. So, hearing your feedback is great incentive! Take care,

  3. Hi Beth,

    Nice post (as usual).

    To your question “How Can We Create Therapeutic Environments for Patients AND Nurses?” I’ll answer from the perspective of a patient advocate. I’d say, only by continuing to do what you are doing so well — that is diligently promoting awareness around the challenges that both nurses and patients face.

    The more people are exposed to all sides of the equation, the more reality will begin to sink in. Eventually that will lead to meaningful changes being made to improve existing conditions for all.

    Time…it moves so slowly when you would rather it sped up…funny how it might be one of the only times we might wish things happen faster….when the change that we need is costing so much to so many. It will happen…and you and your colleagues are making excellent strides to make progress in a positive direction. So, thank you for your great work and hope all is well!


What are your thoughts?