Clinical placements

Seeing the person behind the patient

Caring for a terminally ill patient whose final wish was to marry her partner taught nursing student Charlotte Collins the true meaning of person-centred care. 
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Caring for a terminally ill patient whose final wish was to marry her partner taught nursing student Charlotte Collins the true meaning of person-centred care

During my first clinical placement on a surgical ward, I helped care for a female patient with peritoneal cancer. The patient, who I will call Jane, was about 60 years old and was receiving palliative care.

I had been caring for Jane for about two weeks and we had built a strong nurse-patient relationship. Before her condition started to deteriorate, we spoke a lot about her past and what she used to enjoy.

One of Jane's last requests was to get married to her partner, and she was

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Caring for a terminally ill patient whose final wish was to marry her partner taught nursing student Charlotte Collins the true meaning of person-centred care 


Even small acts, such as sitting at a patient's beside or offering to pamper them with a manicure,
can make a big difference in end of life care. Picture: Alamy 

During my first clinical placement on a surgical ward, I helped care for a female patient with peritoneal cancer. The patient, who I will call Jane, was about 60 years old and was receiving palliative care. 

I had been caring for Jane for about two weeks and we had built a strong nurse-patient relationship. Before her condition started to deteriorate, we spoke a lot about her past and what she used to enjoy.

One of Jane's last requests was to get married to her partner, and she was married on the ward with her family present. The ward sister contacted the hospital catering department who prepared platters of food which were brought to Jane's room, and her daughters brought in her wedding outfit and a beautiful bouquet with her favourite flowers in it. 

As well as Jane's family, myself and some other members of staff were present at the wedding ceremony, which was an emotional experience. 

Quality time 

Jane had a syringe driver in situ for pain relief, and could speak very little. I was aware that she only had days to live, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible.

I thought it would be nice to pamper her, so the following day I brought in my nail varnish, along with some hand cream and nail files, and offered to give her a manicure, which she accepted. I also spent time with her, sitting by her bedside and holding her hand.

The day after the wedding, I was on a bank shift on another ward. On my break, I thought I would go over and see how Jane was doing. I was told by a staff nurse that she had passed away in the early hours of the morning. Her husband was in the room with her, and I went in to comfort him and say goodbye to her.

Jane's husband asked if I could come back in about an hour, as their daughters wanted to see me. When I returned, the daughters thanked me, and told me how grateful they were that I had spent quality time with their mum towards the end of her life.

Emotional support

I had liaised with Jane's family while caring for her, keeping them informed of her condition, and I am glad I was able to offer them some comfort after her death.

This experience taught me the importance of offering emotional support and company to terminally-ill patients and their families, and I learned that non-verbal communication skills, such as eye contact, touch and active listening, are vital in end of life care.

Caring for Jane also showed me the true nature of person-centred care. Delivering care tailored to individual needs can help relieve anxiety and improve emotional well-being, enabling patients to be at peace at the end of life. 

No matter what health condition someone has, there is always a person behind the patient. 


About the author

 

 

 

Charlotte Collins is a first year adult nursing student at Bournemouth University

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