Dr. Meyer with students
Dr. Meyer with students

On February 23, 2015, the KILN program sponsored a workshop featuring Dr. Elaine Meyer, who shared personal experiences with tough conversations from both the nurse and patient perspectives. She spoke about healthcare communication and relational strategies, reflective listening, and empathetic presence. Dr. Meyer, a nurse, is the co-founder and director of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Psychology in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Meyer was introduced to the students as a nursing leader in therapeutic communication between healthcare professionals and their clients. For example, when clients go through a difficult time during treatment or receive a life-changing diagnosis, healthcare professionals can ask Dr. Meyer to help them speak to patients who are about to receive bad news or make hard decisions. During our group conversation with Dr. Meyer, I learned that it is about “being present, not perfect.” This phrase spoke to me. Personally, I have been reflecting on pros and cons of a perfectionist or type-A personality. I admit that I enjoy using a planner, figuring out things ahead of time, and completing tasks correctly the first time by closely following the stated instructions. Most of the time, a type-A personality has helped me achieve good results. However, as a nursing student in the healthcare setting for the past three years, I have noticed that a type-A personality does not always benefit a client, especially when you or the client do not have control over a debilitating disease or unsuccessful medical treatment. What can I do then?

Dr.  Meyer facilitates a workshop on healthcare communication
Dr. Meyer facilitates a workshop on healthcare communication

After attending this seminar, I have been challenged to practice being present with the clients. Dr. Meyer argued that difficult situations do not demand the most perfect nurse. Rather, during the most difficult and vulnerable moments in a client’s life, a nurse is called to be human and simply share a moment of mutual understanding with a hand grasp or eye contact. Furthermore, Dr. Meyer listed specific nurse leadership qualities (e.g. courage, knowledge, and compassion) and encouraged the audience to develop these traits in hopes of providing our clients with both physical and emotional healing.

Dr. Meyer’s TEDx Talk entitled “Being Present, Not Perfect,” may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUUjk_btiY