Sometimes there’s just no way round raising the delicate matter of personal hygiene
Jane Bates on when duty of care to a preoperative patient has to trump your blushes
When your duty of care to a preoperative patient has to trump your blushes – and theirs
Don’t you just hate having The Conversation? A patient arrived for eye assessment and – how can I put it – they were less than fragrant.
You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce what they had eaten for the previous few meals because much of it was embedded in their woolly cardie.
Telling someone they look and smell like Worzel Gummidge is of course out of the question, so how do you tackle this without causing offence? The hygiene issue needed to be addressed urgently because the patient’s eye surgery was imminent, so I had to muster all my tact and have The Conversation.
‘Years ago, there was no toe-curling discussion to be endured because we washed the patients ourselves’
I guessed the reason they were so unkempt was partly because of their poor vision. They would not have been able to see that their clothes were encrusted with shepherd’s pie, or that their fingernails were long and full of grime.
It wasn’t their fault, but I still had a duty of care, however embarrassing it would be.
It was easier years ago when day patients came into hospital the night before surgery to be bathed or showered. We scrubbed them, snipped bits off and took the razor to various parts, and they submitted without a murmur.
Not a word of protest
One of my friends once gave a man a full groin shave, thinking he was in for an inguinal hernia, when in fact it was for a cyst on his shoulder. He never uttered a word of protest. In those days there was no toe-curling discussion to be endured because we washed the patients ourselves.
But that was then, and this is now, when patients have to conduct their own ablutions. Maybe one day when we have enough facilities we can go back to the old system. Then we will all be spared The Conversation.
Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire
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