Opinion

Social media can contribute to holistic nursing care

Diagnosed with locked-in syndrome after a brain stem stroke, Kate Allat lauds the professional support she received and urges nurses to realise the opportunities social media can present to improve holistic care.
Kate Allatt

Diagnosed with locked-in syndrome after a brain stem stroke, Kate Allat lauds the professional support she received and urges nurses to realise the opportunities social media can present to improve holistic care

In 2010, when I was 39, I found out what great nursing care was when I was a patient at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

I had a brain stem stroke and was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome (LIS), which leaves patients unable to move a single muscle. Patients with LIS are seemingly unable to feel, see or hear, and they are unable to communicate despite being fully aware of what is happening around them. It is the stuff of nightmares.

My recovery has been spectacular. From initially being able to communicate by blinking, I gradually

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Diagnosed with locked-in syndrome after a brain stem stroke, Kate Allat lauds the professional support she received – and urges nurses to realise the opportunities social media can present to improve holistic care

In 2010, when I was 39, I found out what great nursing care was when I was a patient at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

I had a brain stem stroke and was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome (LIS), which leaves patients unable to move a single muscle. Patients with LIS are seemingly unable to feel, see or hear, and they are unable to communicate despite being fully aware of what is happening around them. It is the stuff of nightmares.


Kate Allat was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome after a brain stem stroke in 2010

My recovery has been spectacular. From initially being able to communicate by blinking, I gradually learned to communicate using a button with my thumb pressed on the Grid II communication system over a period of five months.

I then spoke my first word since experiencing the stroke – all thanks to my five-year-old son Woody. He said: ‘Mummy, don't write my name, say it.’  No one had ever asked me to attempt to speak before this.

‘My own experience – and that of countless others – has taught me how vital it is to treat patients holistically’

Desperate to impress him, I didn't think twice and uttered the word: ‘Oooooey’.

Turnaround

By no means am I the only one who has enjoyed such a turnaround. I’ve come across some phenomenal cases through my global, voluntary, LIS advocacy over the past six years.

My own experience – and that of countless others – has taught me much, particularly how vital it is to treat patients holistically. All good nurses know how crucial it is to care for patients’ physical illness. That means doing simple things such as looking into a patient’s eyes when you speak to them, offering warmth and empathy, a reassuring touch – or even brushing someone’s hair.

In hospital, I had a phenomenal team of nurses. They made me feel human, gave me their time and treated me with kindness, music and gel nails. This made me feel valued, worthy and certainly not the ‘cabbage’ I then privately described myself as. 


Kate Allat now speaks about her experience of surviving and thriving after her stroke

Dignity

All hospital, community and practice nurses should treat people with dignity just as they would want to be treated themselves. Society must stop pre-judging people with LIS. It’s not okay to assume that all people with LIS are unable to find happiness or achieve self-worth because they have limited muscle control.

Life for some may seem as if it’s not worth living if you can’t eat nice food, go for a coffee or enjoy a day out. Even worse, imagine not being able to hug your loved ones. But there are other ways to achieve happiness.

I’m sure most nurses want to minimise their patients’ symptoms and maximise their well-being – physically, emotionally and psychologically. Nurses have the power to make a huge positive difference to patients’ experiences and health outcomes in hospital and the community. 

‘Nurses could take responsibility for their surgery’s digital hub and seek out unmet patient needs, providing constructive advice and ideas for service improvement’

Signpost people 

Beyond face-to-face contact with patients, community and primary care nurses should maximise their effectiveness by interacting with them online. They could signpost people to social media groups, charities, special gym classes in the area or peer mentors or bloggers who provide support for people with specific illnesses.

Nurses could take responsibility for their surgery’s digital hub and seek out unmet patient needs, providing constructive advice and ideas for service improvement.

All nurses could do more to engage with patients of all ages, perhaps using websites such as Facebook to communicate with, follow up or get feedback from patients.

The general election highlighted the power of social media to engage and mobilise our digitally-engaged, young people. Nurses need to learn from this and realise the opportunities social media can present to improve holistic care.


About the author

Kate Allatt @KateAllatt is a stroke survivor, blogger, speaker and published author of Running Free: Breaking Out from Locked-in Syndrome

 

 

 

 

 

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