Clinical placements

Conversation and communication is empowering for nurse and patient

When I found out that I was going to be on placement at a hospice for ten weeks, I was worried that I would not have the skills or knowledge to care for – or even talk to – those requiring end of life care.

When I found out that I was going to be on placement at a hospice for ten weeks, I was worried that I would not have the skills or knowledge to care for – or even talk to – those requiring end of life care.

On my first day, I was introduced to all the staff and patients. One patient who stood out for me was a woman with a tracheostomy who could not speak. She lay slumped in her bed all day.

As the shift went on, I could not stop thinking about the sad expression on this patient’s face. When I had some time to spare, I decided to sit with her. She did not speak but she did acknowledge me and smiled.

I went to sit with her again on my next shift, and made sure I sat with her at some point on every shift. Staff started to notice that she appeared to be less down, so I think she enjoyed the company.

The patient tried to speak to me, but it caused her too much pain, so I gave her some paper and a pen. She began to write down what she needed, how we could help her, and what she would like to talk about. After that, every time someone went into her room, she would use the paper to communicate.

After a week or so, during handover, I was astonished to hear the staff speak about the change in her. They could not believe that this woman, who now was up and about, was the same person. Her family could not thank me enough as she had told them how I had made such a difference to her during her time at the hospice.

As a nursing student, I have been taught about the importance of good communication with both staff and patients. My experience at the hospice underlined this, and truly made me understand how vital good communication is to building up therapeutic relationships with patients.

Effective communication is key to finding out about a patient and his or her needs. If a healthcare professional cannot find an effective way of communicating with a patient, it can have a seriously detrimental effect on the care that patient receives.

This experience has also shown me that being unable to communicate can harm a patient’s mental and physical health. I believe that the time I spent with this patient made a significant difference to my nursing practice, and I will never underestimate the power of conversation between a patient and a nurse.

Now, when working with other patients, I always check that there are no barriers to communicating. If I do come across a situation where such barriers exist, I make sure that a plan is put in place to allow the patient to communicate in the best way possible for them.

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