Clinical placements

I learned that the patient should be central to therapeutic intervention

In my first year as a mental health nursing student, I was on placement in a residential community setting where I helped to care for Danny (not his real name), an older patient who had recently attempted suicide.

In my first year as a mental health nursing student, I was on placement in a residential community setting where I helped to care for Danny (not his real name), an older patient who had recently attempted suicide.

Softly spoken with a strong regional accent, Danny was socially isolated; he had no friends and had not had contact with his family for 30 years.

When Danny was well enough to be discharged, he was unwilling to return to his council-owned home – the scene of his suicide attempt – and part of my role was to support his move into temporary accommodation.

There were high levels of risk, and the situation required sensitive handling. Danny did not want to visit the housing office in the area of his permanent residence, so I arranged for a housing officer to visit him at his temporary home to arrange the administrative side of the transfer.

I then visited the original property and photographed the contents of each room, displaying the images on a laptop and going through them with Danny so that he could decide what to keep and what to dispose of.

After packing up his belongings, I referred Danny’s case to the local transition team who could carry out certain tasks related to the move, such as the transfer of utilities. A colleague organised a removal company to take away Danny’s belongings, and I met the housing officer at the old property to hand over the keys on Danny’s behalf.

As Danny struggled with complex language and medical terminology, I also acted as his advocate, liaising with other health professionals and interpreting medical information for him when necessary.

In line with Nursing and Midwifery Council standards on patient advocacy and involvement, I did my best to respect and empower Danny by ensuring he was involved in all decisions about his care and treatment. He thanked me several times during this process, and the last time we met we shook hands and I wished him well.

Developing a relationship with Danny, and finding a solution together to a situation that presented considerable challenges, showed me the importance of putting the patient’s views and feelings at the centre of any therapeutic interaction.

I learned the importance of listening to patients and identifying their needs, and the value of using a creative and flexible approach to offer appropriate support. I also learned how vital it is to recognise when extra support is needed, and to collaborate with other disciplines and agencies to achieve positive outcomes.

This experience taught me how to use my training and skills to deliver person-centred care based on need. It also taught me that it is impossible to do everything yourself, and that sometimes you have to delegate tasks to other individuals or teams who have the relevant skills and experience to carry them out effectively.

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