In this paper, a model describing nurses' responses to patients who are suffering is presented. The nurse's level of engagement with the patient is affected by whether the caregiver is focused on him-/herself or on the sufferer (i.e. embodied with the patient) and whether the caregiver is responding reflexively or with a learned response. Four types of communication patterns are identified: engaged responses (first-level) are used in a connected relationship; when the nurse responses reflexively and is focused on him-/herself, the response is reflected; when the caregiver is patient-focused, a learned response is labelled a professional response; and a self-focused, learned response is labelled detached. Examples of each type of response are provided.