Sometimes education and excellence occurs not only from great research.

Great writing can also be educational in providing excellent insights into matters that research cannot easily report upon.

Such as “What is it like?”

Kate Bowler who has stage IV colon cancer has written a great article upon what it is like for her when people find out she has cancer.

She writes that some people will inflict upon her details about other people’s cancers.

This is done despite there being no connection to her circumstances – “all the excruciating particularities of this person’s misfortune will be excavated.”

In the middle of this New York Times article, Kate writes about her favourite nurse who knew what it was like to keep going “after the world had ended”.

She says that the nurse conveyed empathy without prying and smoothed her frayed emotions.

Kate says that there are three types of people who are least likely to know what a person wants.

She calls them minimizers, teachers and solvers.

No one should have to put up with well-meaning people who are incapable of providing comfort.

All nurses will recognise the minimizers, teachers and solvers that are described.

Kate suggests that to be of comfort people should not skip acknowledging the circumstances-“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this is happening to you..

This simple statement does not ask anything of the person who is receiving it.

But it provides them with space.

The tricky part is love, and how it is conveyed.

She says the perfect impulse is to offer encouragement about what is to follow.

Touch, gifts and affirmations anchor the person to the present and stops rumination about an unknown future.

Nurses meet patients with these experiences every day.

Your patients will thank you when you too can convey empathy without prying.

To read this great article,

“What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party” by Kate Bowler. New York Times . January 26 2018