Clinical placements

Research helped me understand a patient’s needs and improve care

In my second year of nurse training, I met ‘Joe’, a patient who had been on a gastro-surgical ward for several months following the formation of two stomas.

In my second year of nurse training, I met ‘Joe’, a patient who had been on a gastro-surgical ward for several months following the formation of two stomas.

Although Joe needed some help changing his stoma bags, he was otherwise self-caring and sometimes went home for the weekend. But whenever he did this, he would always return earlier than expected, upset and angry. The nurses would talk to him briefly about his weekend before continuing with other tasks.

It was upsetting to see a man who often reminisced about being sociable and fiercely independent becoming institutionalised, seemingly unable to cope beyond the hospital environment.

My training and understanding of holistic care led me to believe that Joe’s quality of life had drastically deteriorated as a consequence of his surgery, and I became frustrated that his psychosocial needs were not being met.

I did not know how to approach this with Joe, where to look for clues about how he was feeling, or what to ask him so that I could help him to have a positive experience outside hospital.

To address these challenges, I carried out research and collated a simple, cue-based assessment. This gave me the confidence to purposely observe and actively listen to Joe, helping me to see that one of his biggest concerns about being at home was the discomfort of stoma over-activity. This was then addressed by involving the dietetics team and stoma specialist nurses, and Joe went on to enjoy more time at home.

Without this research, I would not have appreciated nor been able to meaningfully understand Joe’s concerns. My research, and another article I wrote on person-centred care, have since been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Through research and assessment, I sought to understand Joe’s problem and improve the care I delivered without invasive questioning. I was then able to communicate his psychosocial needs to the rest of the team.

My nursing care has developed dramatically because of my experiences with Joe. As well as improving my holistic assessments and communication skills, I am more aware of the need for psychological and social input into general nursing.

I hope to keep building on these experiences as a qualified nurse. I have also gained new respect for research and evidence-based practice, and I always aim to supplement my university and placement learning with my own research, which will make me a more knowledgeable and understanding nurse.

I am also excited to be in a position where I can share my findings, influence the practice of others, improve patient care and contribute towards future best practice by adding to existing knowledge through my published work.

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