When you are a patient you hear things, perceive things, see things and feel things very differently to when you are working in your professional position of a nurse. I often hear nurses talk about their experiences as a patient or with a patient as a member of the family with surprise at the things that they discovered or observed. Nurses are fierce patient advocates and in that role, they think they can identify with patients and empathise or identify (imagine) what patients and their loved ones are experiencing. Once they become a patient or experience the role of the relative of a patient they often see things differently.
When you are a patient you notice the kindness of strangers, the kindness of the wardsman or porter who takes you to theatre and softly reassures you that you will be ok and not die from some unimaginable complication that only a nurse could think up whilst you undergo your procedure. You are grateful for the cheery domestic who comes in every day and chats away with you whilst she is cleaning or delivering your meals. You are grateful to your Doctor who bothers to check in on you even after he has spent twelve hours operating. The kindness of all of these people is touching and when you are a patient you are so grateful for these kindnesses. I think it does all nurses good to be a patient once (for something not too terrible) just to realise how different it is to be on the receiving end and what it is like.
There has been quite a bit of research done on the patient experience and in one particular area, it is very interesting. This is the area of the patient or relative experience with being present during resuscitation and or critical procedures. I have had some experience myself where loved ones have been present during resuscitation. I remember one particular incident where a relatively young man was being resuscitated after a cardiac arrest, his wife was in the room and actually asked the staff to stop the resuscitation. The staff did stop but they were also shocked at what had actually occurred.
A lot of research has gone into if there is any benefit to loved ones of watching CPR being administered. Some research says it demystifies the action, it allows the family to see the extent to which staff had tried to help the patient, to recognise and realise that everything had been done for their loved one.
I recall another situation where the brother of a patient was sitting in the same room as the patient and I was with him, I was cringing at what I was hearing the staff saying in relation to the patient, but the brother didn’t respond as I was responding, he heard different things to what I was hearing. He interpreted the words in a different way, the words gave him hope and also truth, and he was not distressed by what they were.
This experience taught me a lot about how words are perceived in these situations and how we can help support patients and their families at this time. This research continues and is particularly pertinent to paediatric patients. It has met with some resistance from clinicians who do not feel comfortable with relatives in the resuscitation room, so it may be that it is an individual response, not a one size fits all rule. Something to think about in a quest to improve patient experiences.
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