Sharp puts Focus on Empathy, Compassion

Originally published in the Rocky Mount TelegramDebbie Sharp

Debbie Sharp has honed her nursing skills for 10 years, working for the last three on the third floor at the main hospital at Nash UNC Health Care.

The licensed practical nurse (LPN) is frequently recognized for her calming manner and gentle ways of comforting and caring for patients.

Sharp says that every patient is different, but most patients are anxious about being in the hospital.

“Typically, a patient is scared and worried. Part of my job to help them get better is to help calm them down,” Sharp says. “I try to get them to talk about what they’re most scared about. If I can get them to verbalize their fears, I usually can find a way to offer comfort.”

Sharp says some patients want more information. Others want to talk. Still, other patients respond to her holding their hand.

“Sometimes what makes a patient feel calmer is for me to help alleviate the anxiety their family members are feeling. So there’s not just one answer,” Sharp says. “As nurses, I think when we approach a patient with compassion and empathy and build a relationship with the patient, we can adapt and figure out a way to calm them down.”

Paula Bush, director of the third floor, says Sharp always puts her patients first.

“Debbie is a delight and an outstanding LPN on the medicine unit. She is one of many that I am so glad has joined my team. She puts patients first and is a blessing to us,” Bush says.

Before working at Nash UNC, Sharp worked for seven years as a nurse at a cardiology practice in Wilson. She says she loves the pace of her work at Nash UNC and the teamwork she has experienced with her coworkers.

“There is definitely a sense of family ... that we are all in this together with the common goal of helping each other so we can help all the patients,” Sharp says. “I really like that about working here. All of the patients belong to all of us — everyone works together to solve problems and do our best to get patients better and back at home.”

Another reason Sharp likes working at Nash UNC: The schedule allows her time to continue her education. Sharp said after a 13-year hiatus, she’s going back to school.

“It was the plan all along. After I became an LPN, I eventually wanted to go back to school and become an RN,” Sharp says.

Now that Sharp’s sons are through college, she says it’s her turn again.

“It was a pause,” she says with a smile, “but I’m ready to start again.”

She’s taking some prerequisite courses at Wilson Community College and plans to finish the RN nursing program in the next year or so.

Sharp says her mother and grandmother worked in the nursing field, and like them, she’s drawn to work with the geriatric population.

“Many of these older patients can’t speak for themselves and I just feel drawn to help them — to treat them and take care of them like I’d want someone to take care of my family,” Sharp says.

Sharp says being compassionate is a necessary character trait for nurses.

“I really like the culture here at Nash UNC and how we’re all trained to look at everyone as family and to treat everyone — patients, their families, other nurses, housekeepers, doctors, security guards — with compassion,” she says. “It’s a good way to do your job and a good way to live your life.”