Clinical placements

Helping a nurse provide holistic care inspired me to get more involved

During my first year of nurse training, I had a placement with a community mental health team for older people. The work involved assessment and diagnosis of dementia, and I learned about the pathway of care.

During my first year of nurse training, I had a placement with a community mental health team for older people. The work involved assessment and diagnosis of dementia, and I learned about the pathway of care.

One experience really stood out for me. It involved a man with poor physical health and memory impairment who had deteriorated suddenly over the previous 48 hours and was refusing to eat, drink or take medication.

When I went with a community mental health nurse to visit him at home, the man appeared distressed and was acting strangely. He did not speak much or make eye contact, and was distracted. We encouraged him to eat, drink and talk to us throughout the visit, eventually discovering that he was in pain and that the light was hurting his eyes.

A doctor who came and assessed him suggested the man might be displaying symptoms of psychosis, but we did not feel satisfied with this. We contacted the district nurse for an emergency blood test, but were told it could not be carried out until the following day.

We spoke to the social services mental health team about emergency respite, then again to a doctor to request another visit, with a view to admission to hospital, and also supported the man’s wife and provided information on local services.

The man was eventually admitted to hospital and was found to have advanced cancer.

This experience highlighted the importance of critical thinking, holistic care and inter-professional working. It also showed me that something you may expect to be straightforward can often end up taking much longer, and have unexpected results.

Nurses have to be able to make decisions and communicate their concerns to colleagues. The nurse I accompanied used a mix of intuition and investigation, consulted other professionals where appropriate and considered possible causes of the man’s symptoms. She also showed an awareness of his wife’s needs.

Following this experience, I attended a two-day conference held by a health charity on challenging dementia, which consisted of lectures and workshops and attracted 80 students from 11 disciplines. It was inspiring to hear about dementia from a range of leading professionals, service users and charity representatives, and I met many students who, like me, wanted to find out more.

This was the start of a journey. I attended another conference last year on self-care and resilience, meeting more inspiring people, and this year I am aiming to bring the College of Medicine conference to the University of East Anglia.

This motivation has also extended to my activities at university, such as developing inter-professional learning and becoming a peer-assisted learning mentor and a student representative. I am now part of the new student strategy group at the College of Medicine and have been asked to act as an ambassador for the charity at an event at the House of Lords.

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