I’ve been working on a real ward with patients for a few months now. I don’t go often but I do it to try to make sure I still understand the experience of nursing. So far, my experiences say I do, as when I’m there with the patients it feels like I’m 25 again, it feels real and true.
Unfortunately I’m not so sure I look 25! When I go to the ward I put on my blue dress and sensible shoes; the dress is no longer a size 12. Ironically I wear a staff nurses dress which is the same colour as my old sister’s dress but no hat and no lovely silver buckle. I am wider and greyer – I don’t quite look the same as I did 25 years ago! You will understand the relevance of the way I look now later on in this blog!
Last week Jane Cummings CNO and Viv Bennett Director of Nursing at the DH started a consultation of a vision for nurses, midwives and care-givers; the vision includes dimensions of nursing characterised by the 6Cs, one of which is compassion. I would encourage you to read it and respond. You can do that here:
But it got me thinking – ‘Do I give compassionate care?’
Last time I was on the ward I was caring for a bay of 4 patients; its an elderly care ward but focussed on rehabilition. I love it. On my last shift there was one man in particular who, towards the end of my late shift as I was helping him to have a drink, said to me ‘I wish when I wake up in the night I would see your face. Its lonely here and so dark.’
What he said made me feel sad but also made me reflect. What did he mean?
Now, I’m pretty certain its not because I look like a vision of beauty in my dress. I never wear makeup on the ward and as I decribed earlier I’m not sure I look as I did 20 years ago. So why did he say it?
I reflected on the shift. This particular gentleman looks reasonably well but in fact has real problems with his mobility. I also noticed that he struggled to hold his glass to have a drink. Once I realised that he just needed a small amount of help I tried to go to him often to help him to drink his juice. When meal time came I sat quietly down with him and offered my help. He was grateful, I think, as all he needed was help to put the food on the fork, he was quite shaky, but once it was on he could manage. We chatted a little bit but I am sure he was just happy that I was sat next to him. He ate all his dinner.
At the end of that shift I felt that I had made a difference to that man. I don’t want him to feel sad in the night but his feedback to me was that he felt better when I was there. Perhaps I was being compassionate?
So how do we know? We do know that kindness is part of compassion and that kindness needs to be attentive. Ballatt and Campling (2011) say that attentiveness is key to compassionate care, and cite examples such as noticing, thinking, feeling, learning and understanding as important. That these actions then lead to attunement characterised by empathetic warm engagement, responsiveness and sensitive caring (p. 44).
I think I was compassionate that day leading to a sense of trust, but critically I only knew I was through feedback from my patient. We need to listen to what they have to say be attentive and give them more opportunities for feedback that goes beyond ticking boxes of satisfaction. Story telling is powerful, allowing them to tell the story of their experience would help.
So I am resolved; be attentive, notice and give sensitive caring. At the end of the day I don’t look 25 any more but I hope I still have the skills I need to be a great nurse and to make sure I’m using them through listening carefully to what my patients have to say.
The references to ‘kindness’ and ‘attentiveness’ are from the book ‘Intelligent Kindness’ by John Ballatt and Penelope Campling which I would commend to you.