Curiosity: A Most Curious Trait of Caregivers

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The most patient-centered caregivers are, by nature or learning, very curious people.

Imagine there are two nurses, Amber and LeSean. These two nurses are the same in nearly every respect. They work on the same unit. They have the same number years’ experience. They have the same level of clinical skill. The one thing that is really different between the two is that Amber is very curious about the world around her. LeSean is not. What difference does that make in providing care?

Imagine that both are presented with a patient who resists taking the medication she was prescribed. If we could hear each of their thoughts, it might sound something like this…

Amber: “I wonder why this patient is resisting this medication. Why is this patient anxious at the moment? Does this patient understand how this medication will help her? Is there something I did or didn’t do that makes her not want to cooperate with her care plan?

She doesn’t understand that she’s not going to get better if she doesn’t take her meds the right way.  Why do I even bother!?”

Something really interesting is happening in each of these situations. Amber’s curiosity has gained her the power to make things better for herself and the patient. Instead of having a patient that IS a certain way, she has a patient that is temporarily acting a certain way but whose behavior can change for the better. LeSean’s lack of curiosity will put him on the defensive with this patient and all but guarantees that he will make things worse for himself and the patient.

Curiosity is a fantastic trait for caregivers. It helps us to see so many possibilities to improve the care of our patients and gives us the power to make it happen. When you find yourself in a challenging situation with a patient, let your curiosity take the lead. Change the situation into a puzzle to be solved. Realize that you have full control over how you are going to perceive the patient. That perception determines your possibilities.

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