Are We Hearing the Questions that Patients and Their Families Don’t Ask?

“The spoken and unspoken messages we give patients and families are powerful.”

Viewpoint author Juanita Reigle

As a ‘frequent flyer’ of late, accompanying a family member on the long trek through cancer treatment, I’m acutely aware of the ways in which doctors and nurses communicate with us. Some have never mastered the art of interacting with people in stressful conditions. Others have remarkable radar and a special ability to “read between the lines,” identifying concerns that he and I haven’t yet voiced.

In ‘She’s Fine,’ the Viewpoint essay in AJN’s October issue, Juanita Reigle reflects upon how we respond to the questions patients and family members don’t raise. Some are left unasked because people are too overwhelmed to formulate a question. Some people aren’t ready to hear the answers. And sometimes, sadly, families sense that this doctor or nurse really doesn’t want to engage with them.

Reigle shares two stories to illustrate the ways in which deeply listening to what patients and families have to “say”—in both spoken and unspoken communications—encourages or hampers true therapeutic communication. She notes:

“We know the science of nursing well, immersing ourselves in the clinical details and complex diagnoses. The art of our profession is more subtle and revealed in how we demonstrate compassion and respect as we attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and families.”

Read Juanita Reigle’s thoughtful observations on what it means to really hear what your patients and their families are asking. The article is currently free.

Clinical editor, American Journal of Nursing (AJN), and epidemiologist

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

%d bloggers like this: