My 6Cs in action: Compassion

The 6Cs are principles all nurses adhere to in their day-to-day life, on and off the job. Courage, compassion, communication, care, competence and cunning. Wait, scratch the last one, it’s actually commitment. I’m going to try and explain how I apply each of the 6cs during my course, and perhaps show non-nursing students how we roll. Literally everything, EVERYTHING, a nurse who studied within the last decade does revolves around these six principles of care to ensure you, the person who might wind up in hospital or at your GP, are treated fairly and not like another number.

I had surgery not too long ago and had a beautiful fluffy kitten looking after me for my recovery at home. And on placement, I ended up being a not-so-fluffy nurse to some people who had a number of different surgical procedures, some of which had gone so wrong it was almost funny.

Thinking back to my own surgery before I started my course, I had a general idea of what to expect. I was given my consent forms, saw my surgical team, checked I was the right patient, removed all my valuables, swabbed for MRSA and other nasty bugs (antibiotic resistance is a scary thing, people) and read up in my Royal Marsden the pre-surgical procedure. Then gas, count backwards from ten, sleep, wake up shivering, and home.

It was super simple really, a ballet of medical and healthcare staff making sure I was kept alive and safe until I could head home. And after a few hours of surgery I was feeling brave and went home. Until it all went wrong and I woke up without the lovely Oromoph-ish high coursing through my bloodstream. I was in pain. SO much pain. So back to the hospital I went and I was given another bed. The pain was getting worse and I couldn’t have any meds until I saw my consultant again. But it was a Sunday and he was having to travel in.

I wanted to press the call button for more pain relief, but didn’t want to be a bother. I wanted another pillow but knew the nurses were busy. I didn’t want them to judge me for not doing the sensible thing and staying at hospital for the night instead of messing up the beds. I wanted something to eat, something light but something more than toast but something not too heavy like pasta. I wanted a tea, and then a coffee, and then something – anything – to make my mouth less dry. I didn’t want water, or cordial, or anything fizzy, but I wanted something.

The worst was needing the loo, trying to navigate to the bathroom while in a heck of a lot of pain, bent over and trying not to dislodge my IV too much. I wanted to have a comfy wee but couldn’t even sit down without screaming in agony (silently of course). I wanted to get back into bed but couldn’t quite hoist myself up from the loo, and even when I did I had to leave my knickers pooled around my ankles until David could lift them up for me. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to stay awake. I wanted everything and nothing.

I knew it was silly, that the nurses and HCAs were there to help, but I just didn’t want to bother them. And I ended up making everything much more hassle than it needed to be. Nurses, by and large, are brimming with compassion. we want to be able to solve that problem you’re experiencing, we want to champion your care. Take that away from us and we feel sad. Not because we lose the chance to show compassion, but that you didn’t trust us enough to let us help you.

In placement, I’m always trying to be hyper-vigilant about patients who’ve had surgery. I know some will press the call bell every few moments for something or another. And although that sound haunts my dreams (forget the fear of hearing someone in the garden, hearing a call bell when you’re drifting off to sleep is enough to send adrenaline screaming through your body) it means that person trusts me enough to be a compassionate nurse, to help them with what they need. I can’t give you more medication than you need, I can’t prescribe anything, but I can help as far as I can.

And that’s what compassion is. Call it pity, if you like, but it’s the feeling of concern for someone who’s going through a rough time. Feeling their pain secondhand, and trying to make it better. A patient needs to know that nothing is too much trouble in order to fully trust their practitioner. Leave the 5-minute consultations with the doctors, compassion comes from nurses.

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