Clinical placements

‘You made me feel like a human being again’

​When nursing student Chelsea Wade cared for a patient who had attempted suicide, it highlighted the importance of delivering person-centred care and showed how small acts of kindness can make a real difference to vulnerable patients.
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When nursing student Chelsea Wade cared for a patient who had attempted suicide, it highlighted the importance of delivering person-centred care and showed how small acts of kindness can make a real difference to vulnerable patients

In my third year of training I had a poignant experience that I will never forget.

I was on placement in the intensive care unit when I met a patient, who I will call Emily, who had been admitted following a suicide attempt. Emily had anxiety and depression, and a history of drug and alcohol misuse.

The first time I met Emily, I introduced myself at the beginning of my shift, asked her what she would like me to call her, and if she was happy for

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When nursing student Chelsea Wade cared for a patient who had attempted suicide, it highlighted the importance of delivering person-centred care and showed how small acts of kindness can make a real difference to vulnerable patients 

hand
As a nursing student, Chelsea Wade learned important lessons from the compassion
she showed to a vulnerable patient. Picture: iStock

In my third year of training I had a poignant experience that I will never forget. 

I was on placement in the intensive care unit when I met a patient, who I will call Emily, who had been admitted following a suicide attempt. Emily had anxiety and depression, and a history of drug and alcohol misuse. 

The first time I met Emily, I introduced myself at the beginning of my shift, asked her what she would like me to call her, and if she was happy for me to look after her. 

I spent a lot of the time talking to Emily throughout that shift, not only about what interventions we were carrying out and why, but also about everyday things, such as her favourite television programmes and our families. 

Biggest difference

Emily was worried that she smelled, so I hunted down some lovely shower gel and deodorant for her, and also gave her a hand massage. 

When I finished my placement on the unit about a week later, Emily called me over. I thought she wanted say goodbye, but what she actually said was: ‘Chelsea, thank you for your care on my first day here. You made me feel like a human being again.’ 

I was truly overwhelmed by this, and felt heartbroken that Emily had not felt like she was a human being. I was so glad I had managed to make her feel better, just by spending time with her and going the extra mile. This is the greatest difference I could have made. 

Easy to say

Embedding the ‘Compassion in Practice’ strategy in everyday life is vital in nursing. It is easy to say ‘I am a caring and compassionate person’, or ‘if I witnessed unsafe practice I would have the courage to report it’, but stating these things is not enough. 

My experience with Emily taught me that being a good nurse is not about saying the right thing, it is about doing the right thing. It also highlighted just how vital patient-centred care is – simply by talking with Emily, and listening to her, made her feel safe and cared for, which is what really matters. 

Reflecting on my experience with this incredibly brave and strong woman enabled me to improve my practice, underlining the importance of effective communication which I can promote to other students and colleagues.

I will never forget Emily, and think about her often. Not only did she show me why I need to be a nurse, she made me even more determined to prove that nurses really do care, and that we try every day to make a difference to all our patients.


wadeChelsea Wade graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in March and works as a community staff nurse in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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