Arkansas Times
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Nurses' empathy a key ingredient to mental/emotional care

In the realm of patients with mental illness, emotional health issues or addiction, nurses exercise many of the same attributes and skills as with patients facing physical illness, plus one. 

According to Jason Miller, MPH, chief executive officer of The BridgeWay, nurses’ success in this area of care can be summarized by one indispensable quality – empathy.

“Touching the lives of patients is a fundamental part of nursing,” Miller said. “Assisting patients and families with the emotions of their illness is often as important as the treatment of the illness itself. And when that illness is almost exclusively emotional, the impact of a nurse is very unique. We know that empathy matters.”

Nursing in the mental health field is on the rise and growing faster than many medical specialties. predicts 26 percent growth among psychiatric nurses by 2020. That’s a faster and more substantial growth rate than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ forecast for RNs – 19 percent growth by 2022. 

“Nurses have the unique ability to make distinct and powerful impacts on the lives of our patients,” Miller said. “Most of us have witnessed the effects of emotional distress, chemical dependency or even severe mental illness in either our personal or professional lives. 

“In Arkansas, like most states, mental health, substance abuse and suicide are among the most pressing of all health concerns facing us. We know it is real and we know that the care we provide to those individuals matters most. We know that empathy matters and when empathy matters, we can save lives together.”

Nursing Notes

“There are all different levels of experience. There is also a separation of culture. Many older nurses are afraid of change. New nurses are often very willing and eager, but lack the clinical experience. There is a great opportunity for exchange of information and ideas however, nursing has largely been a culture of ‘nurses eat their young.’ It is a job trying to instill a different culture and ideology. The best managers are not managers at all. They are leaders.” 


Jessica Rouse, RN, Chief nursing officer, Rivendell
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