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This site is for student nurses or nurses starting out. Letters to a Young Nurse are blog posts written like letters to help you find your way and make your journey as a nurse less difficult. 


Clear Your Mind and WATCH! Part Two

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

A valuable lesson that I learned early in my career in nursing is that every event, experience, encounter, with people, co-workers, families, etc. has the potential to teach us valuable lessons. I forgot about the "media". I don't mean social media, although they have their place when used intelligently and in moderation. I mean movies, TV shows, magazines, journals, articles and websites and stories other people tell. One of my favorite websites is TED. TED stands for Technology, Education and Design and seeks to present information and ideas in a nonpartisan, not for profit way. I can get lost in TED talks for days and days.

One of the best videos I have EVER seen about helping our patients was done by a beautiful older Social Worker named Naomi Feil. I honestly admit that I was not taught how to care for persons/patients with cognitive deficits like Alzheimer's or Vascular Dementia in nursing school. Naomi demonstrates how to help and care for an older confused patient.

Validation, and community through empathy.

She says that when we are dealing with older people with Dementia or cognitive deficits, the old ways of communicating with them do not work. Sympathy, redirection, diversion, and lying to the patient do not help the patient to feel better and can make the situation worse. Validation and empathy have been found to work better. Before going into the patient's room or home, we have to take a few seconds to center ourselves. Take deep breaths and move aside all of the emotions and other stuff in your brain. An empty vessel has room to hold the patient's feelings. Then we have to rephrase which Naomi calls, "exquisite listening". Listen to their tempo, how slow or fast they speak, look in their eyes and be present so that you can rephrase in the form of a question what was just said. We can reminisce with them with empathy, not sympathy. but empathy. Sympathy feels sorry for the patient while empathy feels sorry with the patient. We should not lie or argue with the patient. Listen and reflect. And we help to express their feelings through validation of those feelings. "Feelings that are expressed and validated become real."


Naomi changed how I care for any patients with any type of cognitive deficits.

An amazing Hospice Social Worker named Beatrice helped me learn how to connect with older patients with cognitive deficits. So often we talk down to them like they are children. But they are not children, their brain is completely developed but now the destruction of dopamine and increase in plaques and tangles have eaten away at their brains. Neurons have been destroyed taking with them chunks of the patient's brain. Neurons do grow back but at very, very, very slow and small rates. Short-term memory functions are lost but often long-term memories are still available. Beatrice would take a picture of their family off the wall and ask the patient to talk about the picture. There was one patient who could recite the entire book of Mother Goose's fairytales if someone started the poem. It was an amazing connection.


If you want to learn about Race and identity watch Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself.


If you want to learn about the diverse world of nursing watch Caroline Jones: A Tribute to Nurses.


If you want to learn how nurses can help heal the broken medical system watch Atul Gawande: How do we heal medicine?


There is so much to be learned when we open our minds and listen and observe. It doesn’t have to be a documentary, there is so much good TV and movies out there if you choose wisely.

What movie, TV or documentary helped you learn a valuable lesson? Share so we can all learn something new.

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