Reflective accounts

Supporting patients who experience hallucinations

A CPD article improved Rose Gallacher’s understanding of how to care for people experiencing hallucinations
man hallucinates

A CPD article improved Rose Gallachers understanding of how to care for people experiencing hallucinations

What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article provided information about hallucinations for nurses in general clinical practice. It discussed the different types of hallucinations that a person may experience, the causes and how nurses can best respond to this patient group.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

Hallucinations were described as a form of ideation, affecting one or more of the senses of hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste without stimuli. By contrast, delusions relate to false or fixed beliefs that are unreal, either about the person or about others. Hallucinations and delusions are

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A CPD article improved Rose Gallacher’s understanding of how to care for people experiencing hallucinations


People experiencing hallucinations require compassion and acceptance  Image: SPL

What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article provided information about hallucinations for nurses in general clinical practice. It discussed the different types of hallucinations that a person may experience, the causes and how nurses can best respond to this patient group.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

Hallucinations were described as a form of ideation, affecting one or more of the senses of hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste without stimuli. By contrast, delusions relate to false or fixed beliefs that are unreal, either about the person or about others. Hallucinations and delusions are linked to mental illnesses, in particular psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The article described the possible link between hallucinations and neurological chemical imbalances such as delirium; sleep deprivation; and the side effects of treatments, for example weaning patients from ventilation.

The article stated that longer-lasting hallucinations may occur as a result of misuse of alcohol or drugs such as cannabis.

Auditory hallucinations can follow a bereavement, where hearing the voice of a deceased loved one can provide immense comfort. Visual hallucinations may be associated with neurological diseases, such as late-stage Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

How did you change or improve your practice?

As a nurse in a general clinical setting, I was interested to learn about the care of people who are experiencing hallucinations, since I may encounter these individuals in my practice. After reading the article, I feel more confident in managing patients who are experiencing hallucinations.

The article increased my awareness of the four precepts that can be used as a framework to support patients. The first precept focuses on treating the cause of hallucinations and assessing the person’s mental health risks, drug and alcohol use, and risk of harm to themselves or others. The second precept emphasises the importance of listening attentively to the person’s responses to hallucinations, accepting that what they are experiencing seems real to the person, and demonstrating concern for their well-being.

The third precept emphasises the importance of documenting the person’s individual experience, and advises that referrals should be made if the person is considering self-harm or harm to others. The fourth precept involves alerting patients, families and carers to resources and information that may help them to understand hallucinations.

How is this relevant to the Code? Select one or more themes: Prioritise people, Practise effectively, Preserve safety, Promote professionalism and trust

One of the themes of The Code is to prioritise people. Hallucinations may be frightening for individuals who experience them, as well as for others around them.

The Code emphasises the importance of treating people with kindness, respect and compassion. It is beneficial to provide a supportive environment where people feel respected, safe and secure if they are experiencing hallucinations.

The Code states that nurses must recognise when people are anxious or distressed, and respond compassionately and politely. Nurses should help people to access appropriate services, for example referring them to support groups such as the Hearing Voices Network.

Rose Gallacher is a staff nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley


This reflective account is based on NS827 Price B (2016) Hallucinations: insights and supportive first care. Nursing Standard. 30, 21, 49-58.

These questions are the same as those on the NMC templates that UK nurses and midwives must use for revalidation

Write your own reflective account

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To write a reflective account for Nursing Standard, use the NMC reflective accounts form available here 

Complete the four questions about the CPD article you have just read, writing about 800 words in total. How to submit your reflective account

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