Nursing studies

Adopting a multi-sensory approach to nursing care

Using all your senses to 'see' the whole patient is a valuable nursing skill, says Mandy Day-Calder. 
multisensory nursing

Using all your senses to 'see' the whole patient is a valuable nursing skill, says Mandy Day-Calder.

As a registered nurse, you will be expected to assess each individual and provide holistic patient care. As simple as this sounds, it isnt always easy, and you will quickly learn that no two patients are the same.

Often, if you ask a patient how they are, they will reply Im fine. This is unlikely to be the case or they wouldnt be in your care, and although clinical observations will give you some information, the art of nursing relies on more than figures.

Some nurses seem to have an innate ability to know what is wrong with their patients and how they are feeling, such as if they are in pain or need extra reassurance. These nurses are

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Using all your senses to 'see' the whole patient is a valuable nursing skill, says Mandy Day-Calder.

As a registered nurse, you will be expected to assess each individual and provide holistic patient care. As simple as this sounds, it isn’t always easy, and you will quickly learn that no two patients are the same.

multisensory nursing
Multisensory approach to nusing. Photo: Alamy

Often, if you ask a patient how they are, they will reply ‘I’m fine.’ This is unlikely to be the case or they wouldn’t be in your care, and although clinical observations will give you some information, the art of nursing relies on more than figures. 

Some nurses seem to have an innate ability to know what is wrong with their patients and how they are feeling, such as if they are in pain or need extra reassurance. These nurses are not magicians, they engage all their senses and use the information they have to build a picture of their patients’ needs. 

Most of us are predominantly visual people, but you will already be using more than just your sight when nursing. The trick is to cultivate the ability to trust all of your senses intuitively. 

Sight Try to pay attention to what you are seeing. You can learn a lot by watching how your patients’ mobilise, or looking to see if they smile with their eyes as well as their mouth. 

Hearing Active listening is the ability to focus on what is being said. It is a skill that takes time to develop, but once mastered it allows you to hear what is being said, and what isn’t. Hospital wards are noisy places so you have to listen to what other sounds patients make that could alert you to changes in their condition, such as groaning or laboured breathing. 

Touch This is an important sense in nursing – feeling your patient’s skin or palpating their pulse can provide you with lots of information. Although touch can be healing, it isn’t appropriate in certain situations or cultures so you need to be sensitive and adapt your approach accordingly. 

Smell As well as telling you if a patient is incontinent, if your sense of smell is finely tuned you may be able to recognise certain bacterial infections or when a patient is in ketoacidosis.

Taste This isn’t the most obvious sense to use when nursing, but you could apply this to intuition. For example, do you get a ‘bad taste in your mouth’ in certain situations? If so, what could this be telling you? Taste is also closely linked to smell, so don’t be surprised if you think you can taste medications or dressings that have a strong smell.

 

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach 

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