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Empathy is Important

One morning, Nina was driving to her job at the nursing home.  When she arrived, her supervising nurse told her that Nina’s new resident Ann was in room 213.  Nina was excited because she enjoyed helping residents feel welcome and comfortable in their new home, especially when the transition was difficult.

When Nina got to room 213, she saw a small, thin woman with white hair sitting in a corner chair, crying and holding a tissue over her eyes. She was all alone and looked very sad, so Nina knocked gently on the door and asked if she could come in.  Ann answered with a quiet, “yes,” and Nina walked over to her and introduced herself as Ann’s nursing assistant.

Ann didn’t say anything but just continued to cry.  Nina felt nervous because this was not what she was expecting, and she wasn’t sure what to do; then she remembered a word that she had learned in her CNA training class: empathy. Having empathy means someone seeks to understand another person’s situation, point of view, or feelings.

Nina realized that she needed to try to understand why Ann was feeling so bad. Nina sat down and said, “Ann…. I think you are feeling sad.  Do you want to talk about it?”  Ann looked up slowly and took the tissue away from her reddened face.

“I miss my house,” Ann said quietly.  “And… I miss all my things–my belongings like furniture, books, decorations, and dishes:  I miss it ALL.  My son and daughter put everything in boxes when they brought me here.  I am angry and very sad, and I don’t want to be here.  I want to go home.”

 

Nina put her hand on Ann’s. Though she couldn’t fully understand Ann’s situation, Nina understood how it felt to feel sad. This understanding helped Nina feel empathy for Ann. She told Ann that she could understand how upset Ann was and promised that she was here to listen if Ann wanted to talk about the transition from home to the nursing home.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners