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Pushing the boat out for patients at the end of life

Respecting patients' decisions at the end of life can make all the difference in care, as nursing student Charlotte Collins found out on placement

Respecting patients' decisions at the end of life can make all the difference in care, as nursing student Charlotte Collins found out on placement


Picture: iStock

While I was on placement in an acute setting I had the pleasure of caring for a man, who I will call Tom. Tom was 65 years of age and had oesophageal varices.

He had been admitted to the ward as his condition was worsening. At first, Tom was still able to speak and we had conversations ranging from his favourite food to boats, and the weather. I asked Tom if he would like to move rooms where he could see the boats and the sea.

‘Maybe next time,’ he replied.

Tom’s family heard this conversation and said they would speak to Tom again about being moved. Apparently, Tom had turned down the move because he thought I would be too busy to arrange it.

Tom agreed to being moved to a room with a sea view and later that day I made this possible for him. He was unable to speak by this point so I turned his bed to face the window and raised it so that he could see the waves and the birds.

Advance decision

Tom died a few days after he was moved. He had an advance decision in place that stated he wanted to be dressed in a Red Arrows outfit, the uniform of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. I fulfilled this wish for Tom and while doing so I spoke to him about the boats and the weather outside. I finished by combing his hair and telling him how smart he looked.

This placement experience taught me the importance of respecting advance decisions and giving patients who are at the end of life a choice to die in a more relaxed and peaceful setting.

Caring for patients with respect and dignity at the end of life and after death are just as important.


About the author

Charlotte Collins is a second year adult nursing student at Bournemouth University

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