How profile forms help us see the patient as an individual

Critical care unit staff found a simple way to enhance person-centred care

Critical care unit staff found a simple way to enhance person-centred care

Helen Whiting: 'The form requires very few resources'

Healthcare professionals strive to provide compassionate, patient-centred care. Doing this effectively means getting to know patients as individuals and understanding what their lives are like.

This knowledge helps nurses and other healthcare professionals improve the patient experience, but in areas such as critical care – where a patient may be sedated for several days – this information it is not always easy to obtain.

To help address this, a patient profile form for use in the critical care unit at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was developed and implemented.

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The form is completed voluntarily on admission by patients, or their families or carers. This enables them to take ownership of it, decide how much information to give and if they would like to continue using it once discharged from the unit. 

The form belongs to the patient and is kept at the bedside so it can be viewed by all relevant health professionals involved. It has been used in the trust's critical care unit for the past three years at the trust, and is an established part of our care package. 

From likes and fears to hobbies and interests

Areas covered include what the patient likes to be called, hobbies and interests, favourite television programmes and music, whether the patient is left or right handed, and any fears they may have. There is also space to insert a photo.

The form requires very few resources, and the simple, clear and colourful design enables multidisciplinary team members to learn more about their patients quickly. This reduces the need to ask questions of either them or the family at what can be a very stressful time.

Knowing that staff want to understand them as an individual, rather than just their medical condition, can have a positive effect on patients and their families, and is key to facilitating recovery. It can be used as a springboard for conversations, helping staff to develop a greater understanding of personalities and needs.

The form allows us to understand what a patient is like when they are well – what is important to them, what causes them stress and how they communicate

A simple task such as putting the patient’s bedside table, drink and fork to their dominant side could improve rehabilitation, for example, and it is vital that this information is not lost from shift to shift. The trust’s computerised electronic system prompts nurses to ask patients and families to complete the form on admission, and to look at it at the start of each shift.

The form allows us to understand what a patient is like when they are well – what is important to them, what causes them stress and how they communicate. It also helps us to understand the effect illness may have on their lives.

Helping families share stories

As many patients in critical care cannot give us this information themselves, arming the health professionals caring for them with this knowledge could transform their hospital experience, especially in such a busy clinical setting.

Feedback from staff who have used the form has been positive, with one staff nurse saying that asking relatives to consider aspects of their loved one’s personality has prompted them to share stories.

‘This often leads to laughter and a shared bond with the nurse, reducing stress and helping to develop shared care and trust,’ she said.

As the form contains personal details about the patient, rather than their clinical condition, it could be used in most clinical areas, especially when patients are unable to communicate their own needs.

Plans to roll out the form trust-wide are being considered. It is also one of 100 innovations being showcased by the RCN for the Celebrating Nursing Practice project.

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Part of the RCN’s centenary celebrations, the project aims to produce a library of innovative best practice from nurses in a variety of settings across the UK. It will be launched early next year and it will be hosted on the RCN website. 


Helen Whiting is senior staff nurse in critical care services at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust 

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