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The purpose of this essay is to show how Tilda and other healthcare professionals did not
demonstrate empathy in various ways throughout chapters 9 and 13; however, Tilda was able to
demonstrate empathy in chapter 2. Throughout chapters 9 and 13, Tilda and other healthcare
professionals did not demonstrate caring and understanding of their patients’ situations which is
part of empathy. Also, they expressed negative thoughts about some of the most important
nursing tasks which is taking care of patient’s personal hygiene. On the other side, in chapter 2,
Tilda was able to demonstrate some empathy to one of her patients. To begin with, empathy is
defined as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. I believe that inexpert
nurses often lack empathy, while expert nurses are excellent at demonstrating empathy due to
their different experiences with patients they have cared for during their careers. Moreover,
empathy is a complex emotion and can be overwhelming for nurses dealing with different
patients who have different kinds of needs.
Throughout chapter 9, Tilda and other healthcare professionals did not demonstrate
empathy: they did not care for their patients as they would for their own family, and they did not
demonstrate professional understandings for their patients’ situations. For example, as Casey,
one of the nurses who was finishing off her shift and was giving a report to Tilda, was telling
Tilda about the patient who had drunk excessive amount of water which lead to damage of
electrolytes in body, she stated “Her sodium is only 115! I thought of sprinkling table salt all
over her!” (Shalof, 2005a). This is a very important example as it shows how the nurse
demonstrated apathy instead of empathy. The nurse did not report the case to Tilda in a
professional and empathetic way; instead, she joked about it. I believe that showing care and
empathy is a lot more than completing a task. Empathy is a powerful tool that all healthcare
providers mainly nurses should have as it builds connection in the nursing profession. Rather
than judging someone by their situation, nurses should attempt to understand another’s feelings
and try to communicate that understanding. In addition, nurses should provide support for most
of the discouraging days in a patient’s life.
Moreover, Tilda and other nurses did not demonstrate empathy as they did not show
professional understanding for their patients’ situations. For example, as Casey was giving a
report to Tilda about patient’s admission to ICU, she said passengers instead of patients. This
means that Casey not only did not demonstrate empathy, she also reduced her patient’s value and
importance. It shows me that from the way Casey was giving report to Tilda, she saw her
Patients as numbers not human beings with medical issues.
Throughout chapter 13, Tilda talked about how nurses and herself expressed their
negative thoughts about patient’s personal hygiene and bedpan. They think that cleaning patients,
blood, and vomit has reduced nursing profession. Although it was very clear to Tilda that staying
at the bedside and taking care of patients was an essential job in the nursing fields, she had
trouble coping with those moments. All nurses including Tilda did not demonstrate empathy
when they were taking turns in cleaning and taking care of Mrs. Powel. For example, when one
of the nurses said that Tilda should take care of Mrs., Tilda replied “No, I had her yesterday, and
last week, too. I’ve done my duty, I countered smug and safe” (Shalof, 2005b). This shows that
Tilda’s response was not empathetic. Nurses should understand that the uncomfortable position,
discomfort situation, and the feeling of embarrassment for being dependent on others could lead
patients to preform unwanted reactions such as the case of Mrs. Powel. Therefore, Tilda and
other nurses should try to find out the reasons for Mrs. Powel behavior and other patients’ as
well. In this case, they would take the problems with empathetic understanding.
Moreover, empathy was not demonstrated in chapter13 as Mrs. Powel was told by one of
the nurses named Morty that she would not feel better if she kept eating and defecating. As a
nursing student, I believe that nurse Morty was very rude and unprofessional. She could have
told the patient that eating a lot and not taking care of herself could lead to circumstances. This
response would have been more professional and empathetic. Thus, the patient might have taken
her situation more serious and that she might have decreased her eating habit. Nurses are the
first healthcare professionals who get to educate their patients because they work on the
bedsides. However, nurses need be extra carful when trying to educate and convince their
patients to do the right thing.
Although empathy was not demonstrated in chapters 13 and 9 by Tilda and other nurses,
Tilda still managed to demonstrate empathy in chapter 2. For example, as Tilda was watching a
patient with advanced cancer quietly eating his dinner, she noticed that the patient did not finish
his dinner, had a flat affect, and covered his head with his hands. She then approached to the
patient and said, “Tell me how you are feeling, sir. Are you perhaps worried that the cancer has
spread?” ( Shalof, 2005c). Although the patient told Tilda that he was not worried about his
condition instead he was worried about the news he was listening to, Tilda still showed empathy
and care by her empathetic approach in the first place to the patient. Although Tilda’s approach
to the patient with advanced cancer showed that she really cared, she should have continued the
talk with patient to find out if he was coping with his cancer or not and to provide empathy to the
patients. I believe that in nursing profession, patients with advanced cancer or any lifethreatening conditions should not be left out.
Moreover, Tilda talks about how she has been tough that empathy is an essential skill any
nurse can have; however, she sometimes does not know how to use it properly and that empathy
alone is not enough. A good nurse needs to be good at problem solving and pay good attention to
detail which Tilda is not good about. For example, Tilda talks about how she once reported that
one of her patient’s pupils, on the ophthalmology floor, were extremely dilated and unresponsive
to light. As Tilda thought that the patient could have stroke, she gathered all the nurses to check
on the patient. However, it turned out that the doctor had instilled drops to dilate the patient’s
pupils prior to an eye examination. I disagree with what Tilda thinks about her self because as
much as time management, problem solving and critical thinking skills are extremely important
in nursing professions, these skills can be learned through experience; however, empathy is not
learnt through experience. Therefore, when Tilda thought that her patient was having a stroke
and she was wrong, this does not mean that she’s not skilled enough to differentiate which
patients need to monitor closely. However, her empathy and worriedness about her patient
overcame her other skills.
To conclude this, empathy was not demonstrated by Tilda and other nurses in various
ways: they did not show they cared for some patients as they would have if it was their family
members, they did not understand that each patient is unique and that they gossiped and brought
negative thoughts about their patients. However, Tilda was able to use empathetic responses in
some situations such as chatting with advanced cancer patient and showing concern regarding
the patient on the ophthalmology floor. In my opinion, Tilda and the other nurses are the best
nurses I have read about so far although sometimes these nurses have a lot of negative aspects of
their patients. I believe that in nursing profession, empathy maters the most. Unfortunately,
nurses in the “A nurse’s story, life, death and in-between in an intensive care unit” by Tilda
Shalof, lack this skill because of the huge number of patients they care for at the same times and
on the same day. It is important for nurses and other health care professionals to stand in each
patient’s shoes and look at the world form patient’s prospective. A nurse needs to understand
why each patient is behaving in a certain way before making any judgment on that patient.
Aubin, B., & Bsn. (n.d.). The Importance of Empathy in Nurses and Caregivers. Retrieved from
Empathy empowers nurses to care for patients, each other. (2018, September 25). Retrieved from
Empathy | Definition of empathy in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Gattinger, H., Werner, B., & Saxer, S. (2013, April 13). Patient experience with bedpans in acute
care: A cross-sectional study. Retrieved from
Shalof, T. (2014). A nurses story: Life, death and in-between in an intensive care unit. Plattsburgh,
NY: Emblem, McClelland & Stewart.

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