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Guidance aims to help nurses talk to vulnerable hospital patients

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New guidance has been launched to support acute hospital staff in caring for vulnerable patients who are in emotional crisis on top of their physical health needs.

The Brief Encounters guidance notes it can be hard for staff to know what to say or find the time when on a busy ward.

“Sometimes it is emotionally very difficult if your patient is distressed and you’re not sure how to respond”

Joy Bray

But it highlights that interactions can make a positive difference to patients, as well as bringing “comfort, empowerment and reassurance”.

Brief Encounters has been produced jointly by Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Star Wards, a project run by the social justice charity Bright.

Dr Joy Bray, guideline co-author and mental health specialist nurse, said: “Staff on general wards are fantastic and enjoy working with their patients. However, sometimes it is emotionally very difficult if your patient is distressed and you’re not sure how to respond.

“Brief Encounters is designed to increase your confidence and recognise that often how you want to respond is the right thing to do,” she said.

The resource is available as a free download

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Ok, maybe I'm biased as one of the authors was one of my lecturers when I trained 25yrs ago but...This looks a really useful resource. Some of it may seem 'common sense', but in situations that make you feel anxious, the reassurance that those 'common sense'/human responses are the correct ones can be helpful.
    Both as a nurse who's heard some of the comments made re: patients with mental health problems, has been called by staff re a suicidal patient who haven't known what to do and so have 'run away' and left patient/not spoken to them, seen patients who've missed their regular meds due to being nil by mouth stigmatised when develop the inevitable symptoms etc; but also as a patient who's been left with a very different view of nursing, scared, alone, and so desperate whilst in a general hospital post-suicide attempt I resorted to phoning community crisis service for advice with last of my mobile battery, this resource is much-needed.
    Hopefully the advice in it, and addressing some of non-specialist staff's fears, can be one of those 'small change, big difference' things. If it allows even one more patient to feel safe in hospital, it is worthwhile.

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