Patient Experience Week: Tips on patient care from someone who had a second chance at life

Kurt Steinmehl got a second chance at life and he’s dedicated to using it to help others.

“When I was 19, I was in a really bad car accident and was in a medically-induced coma for 10 days,” he recalled. “The neurosurgeons told my parents that they did not expect me to regain full brain function because of all of the damage to the frontal lobe of my brain.”

Steinmehl explained his willingness to open up about his traumatic event by saying, “I think that the reason I’m still here today is to talk about it and share my story.” He’ll even show the curious a residual shard of metal that remains embedded near the corner of his eye.

Eight years after his accident, this healthy, strong, 6’5” man has dedicated his career to using his size and his experience to care for others. “I’m big enough and strong enough that I can help when more strength is needed to help move and adjust patients. I don’t want other people throwing out their backs,” he said.

His advice to new patient care techs about how to connect with patients?

  • “Don’t pretend to know what they are going through. I say, ‘I don’t know your pain, but I’m here to help.’ Mostly, patients want us to recognize that this is their unique experience. When I was a patient I didn’t want to hear people say they knew.”
  • “Remember to listen … sometimes the patient just really needs to blow off steam. Take the time to pay attention and figure out what their needs are.”
  • “Try to come into every room with energy and be upbeat. Even if the patient might not smile back, that’s okay. It’s not about us, it’s about them.”

Kurt is looking forward to starting nursing school at the end of the summer.

“Given all that I’ve been through, I get to show our patients that I’ve been there,” he reflected, “and there is a brighter tomorrow ahead.”


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Beyond the Bedside RN

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