In my last Blog, I mentioned the importance of nurses as advocates for safe medication administration. In this post, I want to expand on that notion by exploring the nurse-patient relationship that was inspired by my recent vacation. I hope you enjoy these reflections on practice.

The best nursing practice incorporates compassion and caring. But these characteristics don’t feature in published medication safety protocols. Why is this so? Where did they go? We all know that caring and compassion are cornerstone qualities of our practice. However, this feature of nursing, although crucial for safe medication administration, is not explicitly recognised in policy documents and education curriculum. Furthermore, the process of medication administration is usually reduced to a list-like recipe in practice protocols and therefore neglects the nuances of nursing practice.

In January I had the privilege of visiting Cambodia and Vietnam. Cambodian culture is rich but, years of civil unrest and the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime has left the country in poverty. Despite their history, Cambodian communities are strong. The people are well-connected by their commonalities, and they rely on each other for everyday activities. Access to health care and regulated medicines is limited. Instead, the Khmer people turn to community members and traditional medicines and therapies. They are, however, supported by Non-Government not-for-profit organisations such as the Angkor Hospital for Children located in Siem Reap. Without, this assistance more children would die of infectious disease, road and landmine trauma. The link below describes the Children’s hospital

What is remarkable is that good work done in developing countries is as unnoticed as I suggested nursing work in medication safety in developing countries is because it is not well-publicised. I wish there were more time and resources to explore and promote what is working well rather than focussing on problems. Then we could do more of the good stuff, thus reducing the problems.

While in Saigon, I visited the Fito museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine and pharmacy.  The museum houses artefacts used by 14th-century Vietnamese physicians including prescriptions, herbs, preparation tools and tinctures. The picture below is of an order for the King of the time. The recipe was said to give him health and vitality.

As you can see, combinations of many herbs make up this medicine described to me as the ancient Viagra.  The prescribing physician also recommended two cups of tea and three glasses of wine every day plus love every ten days for continued health. The holistic approach that these ancient healers had with their patients reminded me of the intimate nurse-patient relationship. The picture of the Ginseng root  was also taken in the Medicine museum. It’s a great shot hey?

It reminded me that traditional herbal medicines and therapies are common-place in Western societies. Also, that, nurses are often the first health professional to learn about a patient’s use of over-the-counter medications. Again, we act as the sentinel in seeking a holistic view of the patient and understanding the influences on their perspectives of health.

Our guide reminded me that Western medicine focuses on diseases and regards them as distinct sets of signs and symptoms requiring medical, surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. Whereas, tradition eastern style practitioners thought about people holistically considering the interconnectedness of all human aspects. Through observation and questioning the physicians could recommend herbal tinctures and healing practices to bring balance to the person’s life and improve their health. The physician kept meticulous records of the prescriptions, evaluated the effectiveness of the therapy and adjusted the tinctures and treatments accordingly. It sounds a little like nursing don’t you think?

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