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Susan Osborne: Why do some nurses fail to meet the basic needs of patients?

A stay in hospital as an inpatient left Safe Staffing Alliance chair Susan Osborne feeling isolated and insecure when her basic needs such as comfort and hydration were not met

A stay in hospital as an inpatient left Safe Staffing Alliance chair Susan Osborne feeling isolated and insecure when her basic needs such as comfort and hydration were not met

What has happened to nurses ensuring patients’ physiological needs are met? Following a recent hospital admission for keyhole abdominal surgery, I spent New Year’s Eve reflecting on this.

The care provided by the medical staff and the majority of nursing staff was excellent. But it feels like the nursing profession has lost its understanding of the complexity of human behaviour in terms of meeting a patient’s physiological needs, as described in American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This is often represented as a pyramid with five levels, with basic needs such as food, water and rest at the lowest level and self-fulfilment needs at the top.


Picture: Alamy

Maslow believed that physical needs such as food and shelter must be addressed before we can move on to such things as security and health. After that, psychological needs such as love, belonging and esteem must then be met before self-actualisation can be achieved.

During my hospital stay, although vital signs were taken and medication administered, physiological care was not always provided to myself and the other patients in my bay, in terms of comfort, hydration, nutrition, hygiene and communication.

I felt isolated, insecure and not in control of my environment. This overwhelming feeling of helplessness made me anxious, and overly observant of what was going on around me.

Poor leadership

I believe this is a cultural issue across the profession. Although it is associated with unsafe staffing levels, it is predominantly about a lack of nursing leadership and nurses not being held to account for their practice.

Doctors who came to see patients were not accompanied by a nurse, and no senior nurse checked to ensure my care was delivered to the right standard. Leadership seemed poor, and a lack of teamwork appeared to prevail.

In this age of advanced technology and fast throughput of patients, a culture change is needed to ensure the physiological needs of patients are given paramount attention, enabling patients to feel more in control of their care and helping them to make a speedy recovery.

This is essential for the efficiency of the NHS and the well-being of patients.


Susan Osborne is chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance 
@SusanSSA

 

 

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