Now more than ever, the ways that nurses attend to the circle of life and death are crucial.

Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, LL–AAN, the founder of the Watson Caring Science Institute and developer of the “Philosophy and Theory of Transpersonal Caring” or “Caring Science,” offered ten principles nurses should focus on during the COVID-19 pandemic, during a recent Tipton Health Communications webinar.

Jean Watson, Principles of Caring Webinar

  1. Embrace the practice of kindness and compassion toward yourself and toward patients, their families and your community. By embracing human suffering as part of the circle of life and death, you can find new meaning and remember your purpose.
  2. Inspire faith and hope. Go beyond the fear that you and your patients experience to allow for prayers, rituals, ceremonies, indigenous practices and more that can inspire patients, their families and their loved ones.
  3. Trust yourself and create trust. Offer a sense of trust to patients by appealing to their frame of reference for experiences and meaning. Establish a trusting relationship through a comforting look or touch, nonverbal communication, a soothing voice, or a calming spirit.
  4. Nurture authentic compassion. Attend to your patient by providing comfort, fulfilling simple requests and responding to what is needed in the moment.
  5. Forgive yourself and allow the expression of positive and negative feelings––from yourself and others—without judgment. Allow a safe space for silence and for positivity in your hospital. As a nurse, you may be the only one there to listen to a patient’s story, so this may be the finest healing gift you can offer. You can calm their fear and unease by allowing them to express their feelings for an emotional and spiritual release.
  6. Deepen your creative self. Now is the time for solution-seeking outside of conventional processes. For example, if your hospital should lack PPE, take it upon yourself and your team to innovate, improvise and find new ways to assist your patients while keeping yourself safe.
  7. Balance teaching and learning. Especially now, when we are learning new information about COVID-19 every day, we must balance facts with fresh information, medical science, understanding and wisdom.
  8. Co-create a healing environment at all levels. As a nurse, you can pattern and repattern the delivery of healthcare in a way that transcends traditional institutional constraints and outdated mindsets.
  9. Minister by helping patients with basic needs. By doing so, you can sustain their human dignity and integrity and eliminate any vulnerability they may feel. Nurses normally do this through physical touch, but in times when skin-to-skin contact is not allowed, you can provide an energetic healing consciousness through compassion, eye contact and a soft voice.
  10. Open yourself to new possibilities. This pandemic has changed our world forever. We must now allow for unknowns and accept events that we may have once thought impossible. As part of the mystery of life and human experience, we must be open to the comingling of spirituality, science and soul. Nurses have awakened the public and the healthcare profession to the risks of this pandemic, including death. Attending to the dying and their families is a sacred act of a nurse. In these circumstances, you must find the kindest, most loving and creative ways to sustain human dignity.


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Tipton’s next webinar, Invest in Nurses NOW to Strengthen the Global COVID-19 Response, will be held August 18, 2020, 12:30–1:30 p.m. EDT.