As nurses, we often say to our patients, “Good luck at home” or “Take care and good luck.” Luck—it’s a funny word. If our patients had luck, would they be our patients? Many definitions of luck exist including these (bold added for emphasis):
“Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions; chance considered as a force that causes good or bad things to happen; something regarded as bringing about or portending good or bad things.” —Oxford Dictionary
“A force that brings good fortune or adversity; events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual; favoring chance.” —Merriam-Webster Dictionary
So, when we’re wishing our patients “good luck,” what exactly are we sending them home with? A chance? A force? I would like to think we’re sending them home with more than that—a positive experience, hope, recovery, and healing. This is where the power of the words “Heal well” comes in.
“It was nice to meet you. Heal well at home.”
Doesn’t that sound more promising than a chance, a force, or luck? I say this to each of my patients at the end of my shift. Why? We’ve all heard the multitudes of stories of why our patients became our patients. Many start their stories with “as luck would have it,” “it wasn’t my lucky day,” “if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” and my personal favorite, “I’m lucky to be alive.”
All of these stories are based on chance. Luck and chance brought our patients to us, and they’re not in the hospital because their luck was good. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to say, “Heal well,” changing the perspective from chance to healing.
Think about this for a minute. You’re the patient, and your nurse leaves saying, “Good luck.” You’re alone in your room, thinking of clichés, such as “Gee, thanks, just what I need more luck.” Good or bad, luck is a chance, out of our control. By leaving our patients with “Heal well,” you’re more likely to get replies like, “Thank you, I will,” “I hope so,” “I intend to,” or “I’m already working on it.” Promise and hope are within our patients’ control. We provide them the education and tools for healing and wellness. Yes, of course, there will be the times when healing does not go well, but at least patients were given the opportunity and control so they could try.
There are times for luck, such as in the casino or when playing the lottery. Our patients aren’t in either of those situations, so let’s give them every opportunity to “Heal well.”
Paula Knowles is an RN at Concord Hospital in Concord, New Hampshire.