Clinical placements

The little things matter in patient-centred care

Creating a colour-coded chart to enable a patient to understand her medications showed nursing student Louise Carter the difference small acts can make to patients’ lives
Patient-centred care.jpg

Creating a colour-coded chart to enable a patient to understand her medications showed nursing student Louise Carter the difference small acts can make to patients lives

My first placement in my first year of training was on an orthopaedic ward, which mainly cared for patients undergoing hip and knee replacements.

I was nervous as I had never worked in a hospital setting before, but my mentors were amazing and instantly put me at ease.

From my first day, I realised that my highlighter pens were my most important asset in understanding the information being given in handover. What I didnt know was that these pens would help me to make a real difference to the care of one of my patients.

I was helping to look

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Creating a colour-coded chart to enable a patient to understand her medications showed nursing student Louise Carter the difference small acts can make to patients’ lives 


Louise Carter’s simple highlighter pen medication chart was a big help to her patient. Picture: iStock

My first placement in my first year of training was on an orthopaedic ward, which mainly cared for patients undergoing hip and knee replacements. 

I was nervous as I had never worked in a hospital setting before, but my mentors were amazing and instantly put me at ease. 

From my first day, I realised that my highlighter pens were my most important asset in understanding the information being given in handover. What I didn’t know was that these pens would help me to make a real difference to the care of one of my patients. 

I was helping to look after an older lady, who I will call Lilly, who had undergone a total left hip replacement. Lilly was in her 70s, with a history of hypertension and osteoarthritis of the hip. She also experienced episodes of confusion. 

Making it simple 

My mentor and I were preparing Lilly for discharge, but problems with her short-term memory meant she found it difficult to understand her prescribed medications. Her husband was her main carer, and while he was supportive, Lilly wanted to understand for herself what medications she should take, when and how much. 

Although we explained the medication to her, she was still confused and was starting to become upset. To make it simpler, I decided to create an easy-to-understand medication chart using my highlighter pens. I listed all the medications, the amounts and the time of day she needed to take them.

I then sat down with Lilly to run through it once more. By using my initiative and spending just ten minutes creating something personal to Lilly, I helped her to understand her medication and she left the ward happy.

Know your patient 

When Lilly received a follow-up call a few days later, the nurse passed on to me a message from her, thanking me for my colour chart, which she said had helped her immensely. I was pleased by this: it was only a small act, but it made me feel like I had done something that had made a difference to my patient. 

This experience made me realise how much the little things matter, and how important it is to get to know your patients. It also made me realise that you can never assume patients fully understand what is being said, and I am always happy to spend that extra few minutes to make sure a person understands what I am saying and is fully informed about their care. 

Now I am never without my trusty rainbow collection of highlighter pens. They have come in handy on more than one occasion since this experience, including making another colour-coded medication chart for a patient with dementia. You never know when a bit of creativity may be called for to ensure you are understood. 


About the author

 

 

 

Louise Carter is a third-year nursing student at the University of the West of England 

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