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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. Nursejournal.org 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

“For advanced degree levels, I see three areas of major opportunity: Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education and Nursing Informatics. We need practitioners to help cover the gap in the lack of physician coverage, we will need even more educators to continue educating young nurses and we are moving at light speed in many ways making our health care delivery system more electronic.”  

 

Neal Reeves, MSN, System Analyst Manager, doctoral nursing student UAMS College of Nursing
 
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