Last year, I spent two weeks in an induced coma abroad. And the most surprising thing that will change the way I nurse patients for the rest of my life, is that I can remember conversations that were had at my bedside.
Some conversations were so vivid I can even remember the names that were used in them. This will change the way I nurse patients because it has shown me that even if someone is in a coma, in a particularly deeply unconscious state, they may still be able to hear what is being said around them.
I can’t tell you how many times while working that members of staff started inappropriate conversations with me, while washing a patient who had dementia or who had sustained a severe stroke. Part of this problem might be because we, as nurses, still hold stigma towards certain illnesses such as dementia.
However, there have been times where it was just “assumed” that patients who have sustained certain injuries (particularly head injuries, such as stroke) were unaware of what was being said around them. Sometimes this is the case, but often I would wager that patients such as these are aware of what’s going on more than we give them credit for.
It is especially tough to do the right thing if it means speaking out against qualified staff.
In my first year of nursing as a HCA I was looking after an older patient in the final stages of her life. I held her hand while I watched her life slowly slipping away from her. It was a serene and quiet moment, it was very sacred in it’s nature and I was finding it quite difficult to deal with, but I was determined to get it right. Then all of a sudden, a young nurse burst in through the curtains and enquired quite loudly, “Is she dead yet?”
Through my experience, I believe that might have been the very last thing she heard.