Clinical placements

Every patient deserves holistic care

A nursing student witnesses an incident of poor care and is reminded that staff as well as patients need understanding and support.

Witnessing an incident of poor care reminded nursing student David Morrissey that all patients should be treated with dignity and respect

Towards the end of my first year of training, I was on placement on a hospital ward when I heard the alarm bell go off in the bathroom. 

Holistic care
Picture: Alamy

I knocked on the bathroom door and asked if I could enter. The patient was female and asked if a female health professional was available to help instead, as she wasn’t very comfortable around men. 

I sought out a female member of staff and asked if she could help. It was midday and we were getting the patients ready for lunch. The nurse I asked said she was too busy to help the patient in the bathroom. 

The patient, who had recently had an operation, was becoming uncomfortable, having been kept waiting for over five minutes. I urged the nurse to help her, which she did, but she seemed unwilling. 

Moments later, the nurse appeared with the patient and wheeled her back to her bed, still on the commode. The patient was visibly upset. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the nurse walked away. 

I asked the patient what had happened and she told me that the nurse had told her off for requesting a female to assist her.

Moral and professional duty

I helped the patient back to bed with help from a physiotherapist who had witnessed the incident. I tried to calm her down and offered her as much support as I could. 

The patient, who was in her eighties, was shocked that anyone could be so rude. I was outraged by the nurse’s behaviour and knew I had a moral and professional duty to report her. I abide by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code in my practice, and believe all patients should be treated with dignity and respect. Luckily, the director of nursing was on the ward, and dealt with the situation.

Work can be challenging for students and qualified nurses, who are sometimes limited in what they can and cannot do to help patients. But this was an example of poor care which should not have happened. It is important to learn from it, to prevent something similar from happening in the future. 

The incident was also an important reminder that everyone deserves to be treated equally. Whether you are male or female, young or old, black or white – everyone should be treated holistically. 

It also highlights that we are all human. Yes, that nurse was wrong to treat the patient the way she did, but I was told by colleagues on the ward that she is usually a fantastic nurse who pays great care and attention to her patients. 

Anyone can have a bad day at work – no textbook or journal will teach you how to deal with it. Staff as well as patients need understanding and support, not judgement by others.

About the author

David Morrissey


David Morrissey is a third-year nursing student at Bucks New University 

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