Clinical placements

Caring for 90-year-old showed me the importance of communication

Caring for a sprightly 90 year old helped Lisa-Marie Morphett realise that looks can be deceiving, and all patients need time and care

Caring for a sprightly 90 year old helped Lisa-Marie Morphett realise that looks can be deceiving, and all patients need time and care

During a 6-week placement on an intensive care unit in my third year of training, I helped care for a 90-year-old patient, who I will call Clara. 

Time, patience and effective communication are three of the most important aspects of care              
 Picture: IStock

Along with my mentor, I had admitted Clara to the unit from another ward. She had a significantly swollen epiglottis, which was beginning to obstruct her breathing, and her oxygen levels were low.

She was receiving oxygen therapy, intravenous antibiotics and nebulisers to clear her chest and aid her breathing.

Wonderful patient 

I spent 3 days looking after Clara, who required a high level of monitoring and observation. While I was providing her care – administering her nebulisers, taking hourly observations and assisting her with feeding – we talked about her life. 

She told me about the people she had loved and lost. Clara was Austrian, and had been in love with a German officer who took his own life. It sounded like something out of a film, and I could see the pain in her eyes.

Clara was a wonderful patient. She was kind and complimented me on my work regularly, and wanted to talk even though she was in pain and breathless. She wanted to know all about my training and voiced her political views about how nurses deserved a pay rise. 

Looks can be deceiving 

She was as alert and as mobile as someone half her age. She felt it was vital to keep up-to-date with global current affairs, and when I arranged for her daughter to bring her Kindle into the unit, she was delighted. 

Clara told me she was tired of hearing how good she looked for her age. She said her sprightliness meant her need to be cared for was often overlooked, and she needed as much attention as anyone else her age.

Her comments taught me that a patient’s appearance can be deceiving. Just because a patient looks well for their age, and seems to be managing, it does not always mean they do not need care and attention. In fact, they may need more input so their independence and quality of life can be sustained.

Valuable experience

When I discharged Clara after 4 days, I felt I had followed her ICU journey the whole way. The experience was incredibly valuable to me and I will remember it forever. 

I now ensure, whenever possible, that I give my patients time to tell me about their desires, fears and frustrations, so I can give them the person-centred care they deserve. 

My encounter with Clara was one of my most memorable. It has changed my practice and taught me that time, patience and effective communication are three of the most important aspects of care, and without these, my practice will not fully benefit patients.

About the author 

Lisa-Marie Morphett is a third-year nursing student at Bournemouth University. She will qualify in adult nursing in February 2017 and begin her first job on an intensive care unit in March 


This article is for subscribers only