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Jane Bates: Care means taking time to explain and be kind

As someone with severe dental phobia, finding a kind and compassionate dentist made all the difference to Jane Bates, reminding her that a nurse’s true skill lies in how they treat patients

As someone with severe dental phobia, finding a kind and compassionate dentist made all the difference to Jane Bates, reminding her that a nurse’s true skill lies in how they treat patients


Picture: iStock

Odontophobia is just what it says – a fear of dentists. I am one of odontophobia’s leading lights – put ‘tooth’ and ‘drill’ in the same sentence and I’m off like a frightened rabbit.

Until I found a wonderful dentist, that is, a few years ago. He was different because he explained everything as he went along, even showing me the instruments he was going to use, which sounds scary but somehow wasn’t. I nearly wept when he retired.

Not only was he an excellent practitioner, he was also a role model. It is a simple thing, talking a patient through an anxiety-inducing procedure. It costs very little in time and effort, but means everything to the patient.

A nurse’s true skill

So when I heard that a friend, frail and drowsy post-surgery, had her nasogastric tube replaced by a nurse without explanation or warning, I was shocked. A nurse herself, she could not believe it either. As well as hurting physically, it was a disaster psychologically, causing her to feel even more helpless and alone when she was already fearful.

Using kindness and imagination, my dentist made me relax, against the odds. This nurse, for whatever reason, failed to realise that with power comes responsibility, and that nursing is as much about the way we treat patients as the tasks we carry out.

Putting a smaller tube into a larger tube is only part of the challenge. It is how we treat the patient while we are doing it that is a nurse’s true skill.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 
 

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