Two things come immediately to mind in hearing this quote. The first is the idea of biopsychosocial healthcare. To me, biopsychosocial healthcare refers to the idea that illness and wellness are not merely biological categories, and patients are not merely medical puzzles to be solved. Rather, wellness is impacted by disease as well as the psychological and social context of each individual patient. That is to say, a person’s ability to access care, follow through with treatment, and prevent relapse or additional illness is impacted by their own psychological environment and well-being, as well as social factors like economic status and gender identity. As well, members of some social groups are more likely to be underserved by the medical establishment – again, those in low socio-economic classes, those outside the binary of gender or sexuality, racial minorities, and those on the margins of society are more likely to struggle, due to social determinants of health. Caring for patients means caring for the whole person, which includes their social and psychological well-being, and understanding the social context from which they come.
The second thing that comes to mind is the vast scope of compassion nurses can embody and enact in their unique role, for patients and their families, as well as for their colleagues and themselves. Nurses fulfill a role defined by support: support for patients, for the medical team, for other nurses. Such a role allows them to have an immense impact on everyone around them. Showing warmth and kindness to someone who is ill or injured helps them feel acknowledged as a person and not just a list of symptoms. Bringing care and comfort to a family with a sick or injured loved one helps make a very difficult time of trial a little easier to handle. Showing solidarity for other nurses helps the workplace run more effectively, and opens space for empathy around a shared set of standard difficulties on the job. Extending that support to oneself helps ensure that you are providing adequate self-care, and ensuring your own wellness, even as you work to ensure that of others. This complex set of intersections is unique to nurses because of the supportive nature of the work they do, and in such a role, the healing they do goes far beyond the merely physical.