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Older people care: my last placement of my final year

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There is so much more to nursing and caring for the elderly patient than simply providing excellent care while in hospital. 

As I was to find out on a general medical ward for the elderly, my last placement of the first year. 

Having spent the last twelve years working as a health care assistant on medical wards and predominantly with older patients I had certain expectations about a placement on an older people ward. 

I was looking forward to learning more about the role of the qualified nurse and experiencing the older people ward from a student perspective. What I gained far exceeded my expectations and will remain with me throughout the rest of my training and beyond. 

Once I became familiar with the day-to-day running of the ward I began to look at the learning opportunities, firstly my mentor suggested I attend the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting. 

The doctor, physiotherapist, cccupational therapist (OT), named nurse and a member of the home discharge team (HDT) began discussing the care of each individual under their care in relation to progress on the ward and the discharge plans. 

At this moment I realised nursing and caring for a patient on an older people ward is much more than the daily tasks I experienced as a healthcare assistant. 

After talking to my mentor about the different professionals and the work involved in safely discharging a patient she arranged for me to spend some time with the physiotherapist, OT and HDT. 

Understanding the roles of these professionals made me appreciate how important referrals are and how the patient benefits from the expertise of all those involved in the MDT. 

I also spent time with the dieticians and the respiratory nurse specialist. I was able to observe in oxygen clinic, this was particularly interesting and taught me about a great deal about oxygen therapy. Patients were assessed to see if they required mobile oxygen therapy, this differs from home oxygen as home oxygen is supplied in large immovable canisters. 

Mobile oxygen as the name suggests can be carried either in a shoulder carry case or in a trolley. It became apparent throughout the consultations that the most important factor for wanting mobile oxygen was the improvement in daily life both out socially and at home. At home, tasks such as walking up the stairs can be made easier with the use of mobile oxygen. Many patients said how it would allow them to live a ‘normal life’ and regain a level of independence.

I found this experience especially inspiring, listening to patients’ experiences and being able to literally offer a lifeline was amazing. 

An older patient may present into hospital with a variety of conditions, getting that patient back to the level of independence experienced before the hospital admission is paramount for the nurses caring for that individual.

Nurses are brilliant but are not specialists in every professional field in healthcare. Therefore the work done by the MDT is essential to ensure everything is in place for that patient to be discharged safely and appropriately. 

I am so grateful I was able to spend a little time with some of the other professionals within the MDT; I will certainly be looking out for opportunities to learn from different fields in future placements. 

Rachael Wheeldon is a second year student nurse at UCLAN, Preston.   

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