‘Heard and understood’: How Carolyn Yoder treats patients with connection
If you talk to Carolyn Yoder, RN, about her work as a supportive care nurse, you’ll note that the word “listen” comes up frequently.
There’s a reason for this: listening is her superpower. In her 39 years as a nurse, she has learned that the patients and families she serves simply want to be heard and understood.
“I really enjoy my conversations with patients,” says Yoder. “Especially with elderly patients, they like to give a life review and share what they’ve done with their lives and be affirmed in that. A lot of my time with patients involves listening to them and trying to hear the unspoken things that might come up in the conversation.”
Making personal connections
A few years after joining UI Health Care in 2018, Yoder became a supportive care nurse. Her role takes her wherever she might be needed within the hospital and enables her to forge deeper connections with her patients.
“I was drawn to this position because I would be able to help patients in a way that is different than what you do with other medical interventions,” Yoder says.
Now, Yoder is able to provide care to her patients in a holistic way. Her duties as a supportive care nurse involves intentionally helping patients better understand the treatment that’s being administered, what’s important to them, and what their goals of care are.
This past fall, Yoder cared for a patient with severe COVID-19. As the patient’s child recalls how the day before their mother’s passing, she asked for Carolyn to come sit with her.
“Carol had a way of calming my mom. It was difficult for my mom; she wasn’t ready to go,” the patient’s adult child wrote. “After Carolyn came in, she immediately sat down and held my mother’s hand, and they began to carry on a conversation. I left the room, and as I re-entered, Carol was still holding my mother’s hand and singing her a song. It was the most touching thing I had ever seen or heard.”
Staying on an even keel
Given the intensity and emotional toll of Yoder’s work, self-care is important. Along those lines, Yoder escapes to the outdoors whenever she can, gardening or bicycling around rural Johnson County.
She also learns from the other three supportive care nurses who work with her.
Whether it’s for each other or their patients, Yoder and her colleagues aim to provide support whenever they can.
“When you get to a patient’s bedside, try to stay present in the moment with them,” says Yoder. “And when you have the chance to talk with them, really strive to listen.”