Clinical placements

How a pain specialist team changed the way I nurse

Caring for patients in severe pain revealed the importance of individualised attention

Caring for patients in severe pain revealed the importance of individualised attention

Picture: Alamy

My second ever placement was on a surgical ward where I spent some time with the pain specialist team.

Many of the patients I was caring for were experiencing pain and I thought that joining the pain nurse specialists would enable me to learn more about the causes of pain and pain management.

Patient in distress

I spent about two hours with the team during their ward round. The first patient we saw was a female in her early thirties with carcinoma of the bladder who was experiencing severe pain. The pressure on her bladder and the constant urge to pass urine were also causing her great distress, and the nurses were joined by the patient's doctor for the consultation. 

The patient’s bed was soaked in blood and urine, and she was squatting near her bed, unable to find a comfortable position. She was crying and saying she wanted to die, and her relatives were also extremely distressed.

As a first-year student, I found this a situation challenging. I felt great empathy with the patient but I could not take away her pain. However, what I could do was try my best to make sure she was comfortable and that her dignity was maintained.

With the patient’s permission, I cleaned and changed her bed, and then found a commode for her. I helped her to wash and gave her a clean gown, enabling her to feel more comfortable so that the pain specialists could continue to treat her.

The pain management team reviewed her analgesia and provided her with a patient-controlled analgesia pump so she could self-administer her pain relief as required.

Calm, confident approach

Throughout the consultation, the team treated the patient with dignity and respect and were calm and confident in their approach. Their constant reassurance for her and her relatives made the patient feel less anxious and she eventually managed to settle. She was grateful, as were her relatives, for the care and compassion shown by the team.

I was impressed with the way the team used their knowledge and skills to care for such a distressed patient. This highlighted how important effective communication is in establishing therapeutic relationships with patients and their families, and I gained a better understanding of the role good team work plays in providing quality, patient-centred care. 

We also saw an older female patient who was experiencing severe pain following a fall. She had been prescribed paracetamol (as required) on her drug chart but her pain was getting worse. The team promptly assessed her, reviewed her pain score and prescribed stronger analgesia to be taken regularly.

Great early experience

Shadowing the pain specialists was a great experience, especially so early on in my nurse training. What I learned from their compassionate and professional approach has shaped my nursing practice.

This experience helped me realise that nursing practice is not a one-way track from nurse to patient, but a collaboration between the patient, their family and healthcare professionals, with the patient at the centre of care.

It also showed me what a huge difference addressing fundamental care needs can make to a patient, and why we must approach each patient as an individual with individual needs.

  Samuel Osei is a second-year nursing student at the University of Hertfordshire


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