Guest Column: Caring and the Human Touch

Caring for a burn patient. Credit: Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN CLNC

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Assistant Editor

The first thing I learned was to use my senses……..my sense of sight, smell, touch, hearing, listening, my gut sense (my 6th sense).  This is how we assess our patients……………this is what a nurse does.  This is what the nurse does best, we use our own tools.  This forces us to learn, to feel compassion, to teach each and every one of our patients.  Each patient is a unique being.  Ancient healers recognized us as such.

Skin is the outer covering, the protective shield of the body, and it is the largest sense organ.  Skin has an aura, a human aura with many energy fields that surround it.  Light, heat, sound, thermal, magnetic, electrical all vibrating as a complete and unique energy system.

What comes to my mind is, as of late, and as recently experiencing the in-patient side, the nurse in me, watching through that looking glass, is that touch, and assessment, complete head to toe is falling by the wayside, and that deeply disturbs me.  Some of the attitudes may be “we have physicians, so why take the time ourselves.”  We have our EMR’s that we take from room to room, we have our automated BP & pulse oximetry, cardiac monitors, so why not just take a look.  We have become so casual in our assessment skills…….are we NOT teaching our new nurses that our hands have greater sensitivity, that it is within our abilities to see, smell, hear. listen, and touch?

Does it serve our nurses well to provide accelerated programs to those who may already carry an advanced degree in a science, when they have never even held a newborn?  How do they learn how to touch “therapeutically”.  Do they know how to palpate a blood pressure?  Take a pulse?  Do some gentle chest PT, and add that back rub to avoid any skin breakdown?  Do they ever really have the time to focus on the empathetic piece?  Or have our new nurses become too task/techno oriented? We are such multi-dimensional human beings, from the physical, emotional and spiritual all interacting at the same instant.  We learn as infants with our senses.  We learn by touch: hot/cold, wet/dry, soft/rough………………… 

………..Has technology become so advanced that we no longer need to use our senses? 

Paul Williams & Andy Grossart – Gentle Touch Lyrics

Touch… touch, I remember touch
Touch… touch, I remember touch
Where do I belong?
Touch, I need something more
I remember touch
I need something more, in my mind…
Touch, I remember touch
Pictures came with touch
A painter in my mind
Tell me what you see
A tourist in a dream
A visitor it seems
A half-forgotten song
Where do I belong?
Tell me what you see
I need something more
Kiss, suddenly alive
Happiness arrive
Hunger like a storm
How do I begin?
A room within a room
A door behind a door
Touch, where do you lead?
I need something more
Tell me what you see
I need something more
Hold… hold on
If love is the answer, you’ll hold… hold on

This is what automation does…………………..and so does covid19.