The Art of Knowing



“I think I want to stay in bed today. I don’t feel like eating breakfast.” Ms. ___ declared with a sigh.   “Ohhhh. Well ok then. I guess you’re tired of coffee. And of course you’re going to miss the latest gossip from Ms.___. And Mr. ___ is going to be a little bummed out. You know he has a bit of a crush on you…”

I chattered on nonchalantly, as I moved about her room. Wait for it, Alice..3…2…1…  “You know what? I’ve changed my mind. I’m actually a little hungry. Is my purple shirt clean?”


“Alice!!!!”. Uh oh. I saw my partner on the hall racing out of Mr.__’s room towards me. This was not good. She is relatively new to the facility, and though she seems both confident and competent with her skills, she undervalues the importance of getting to know the residents in her care. It’s a rookie mistake.

“He…he said…it was awful!’, she stammered. I sighed and headed to his room. Mr.__ is not morning person. If you want to start out your shift with a battle of epic proportions, by all means go in there, turn on the light and announce that you’re getting him up for breakfast. No. The way to help him is to go in, put on his TED hose, get him dressed and moving with as little chitchat as possible. Before ten AM, he is more action, less talk.

Mr.__ is the opposite. He is legally blind. He does best when he clearly hears step by step the actions that are taken as we assist him. Otherwise, he gets confused, scared, and obstinate.


“She’s very upset because she is short on her colostomy supplies. She was actually crying”, I was informed when I came on the floor. As frustrating as that can be for Mrs.___, it’s nothing she hasn’t dealt with before and I knew it wasn’t a shortage of her personal supplies that had her in tears. I’d been waiting for it.

Mrs.___ lost her husband earlier in the year to a long illness. At the time, it didn’t seem to have a deep impact on her. While he was sick, she had a friend who helped alleviate some of her pain, much to the shock of the other residents. It was quite the scandal on the floor, as everyone, workers and residents alike, were very fond of Mr.__.

Regardless of how it looked, I knew that she never really allowed herself to grieve. She is relatively young and I felt she just wasn’t equipped to face the pain on her own.

Sadly, her friend recently passed. Again, she appeared to take it in stride, handling the loss even better than some of the workers did. None of us saw his death coming and it was a shock. Because I’ve known Mrs.___ for years, I knew it was only a matter of time until the emotional reaction from the loss of both people for whom she cared deeply would hit her.

After breakfast, when the pace on the floor slows from 100 MPH to 75, I quietly slipped into her room. I told her that it’s going to be ok, reminded her that she is not alone and is very loved. I said that I was here if she ever needed someone to listen. She didn’t say anything; didn’t remove the blanket that covered her head, but her hand found mine and squeezed it as she cried softly into her pillow. It was a beginning.


The true art in what we do as caregivers does not lie in the ability to make an occupied bed or do perfect hospital corners. It’s not our ability to take blood pressure or put a shirt on someone with an affected arm. It’s not even in thorough and clear documentation. Those are all important skills, but they can be taught. The ability to see, notice, observe and be present is the gift. The art of knowing is at the very heart of what we do. The idea that we are there, walking hand in hand with those for whom we care is what really matters most; that they can trust us and know that no matter what, they are not alone.


2 thoughts on “The Art of Knowing

  1. Anonymous

    The first time I worked on a different floor I asked one of the regulars for a rundown of my patients. She said everything I needed to know could be found in the care cards. She said if you know your job then thats all you need. I knew this could not be true as everyone is different. This is why I do not like to float, my way is to know the people and to use that to do a better job. I guess this is not the case for all.


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