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'Washing my patients' feet'

  • Comments (7)

Without even thinking I replied “washing patients’ feet!” Perhaps an odd answer but for me, somehow, it sums up what nursing is all about.

I remember busy shifts when decisions were made to only wash faces, backs and bottoms - getting the essential parts clean because the ward was so busy. It is easy to miss the feet off the list yet so many patients, particularly older people, cannot reach their own to wash them - even when they are well.

I often hear the word ‘basic’ used to describe core elements of nursing work and I worry about what this implies. To me, it suggests something simple and easy. Yet washing and dressing people, changing sheets when someone is critically ill in bed, giving a patient a drink or something to eat - these are all fundamental to comfort and recovery.

As we know, if you get these tasks wrong, everything else will invariably also be wrong. Patients have to be viewed as people and nursing cannot be broken down into small tasks where no one person has a complete overview of what is going on.

So, back to feet.

One of the greatest pleasures for me was to fill a bowl with warm water, put it on the floor and put my patients’ feet into it. Sometimes you could physically see the stress and anxiety drain from a patient’s face as they wriggled their feet in the water. Stopping for a few minutes before drying and moisturising the skin just gave us a little bit of valuable time to talk, for me to find out how they were feeling and what they were worried about.

Unlike other interventions - doing an IV or filling in an assessment - washing feet really is an act of kindness. It takes a little bit of time, but it shows that it matters to you that your patient feels clean, comfortable and ultimately, cared about. It is a lovely thing to do.

  • Comments (7)

Readers' comments (7)

  • Anonymous

    I don't like the term basic and this essential or fundamental is a better description of what nurses do

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  • I very much agree with this, we often forget the "basic" or fundamental care tasks are so important and can do so much for the well being of our patents when done well and can have the enitirely opposite effect if not. I have often taken time to wash my patients feet and it is amazing the difference it makes to both their and my day ... Great part of nursing !

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  • well done Eileen

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  • George Kuchanny

    Most excellent article - made me feel part of the human race just reading it. Thanks Eileen

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  • i liked this article and totally agree when Eileen say nurses we are missing the basics.Nowadays we are much into paperwork forgetting the basic nursing care. I was just giving a lecture to my junior colleagues regarding feet care few days ago.Lets go back to the BASICS

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  • Ah. I breathe a great sigh of joy reading this fabulous article. To perform such tasks for a patient is the essence of excellent nursing care. Its in these brief interludes on a busy ward that we often find out more about how the patient is really feeling and how we can improve their care. Listening, therapeutic touch,giving the patient back some control, some say in their care, are all fundamentals of the healthy nurse patient relationship. Don't get me wrong. I can do all the fancy stuff too, but this is my real job.

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  • Anonymous

    when i had my bay of patients to look afteer i would always soak their feet in a bowl of warm soapy water whilst i made their bed and tidied around the bed space.they absolutely loved it. the only trouble now is that due to infection control, plastic bowls have been removed and we now have disposable ones which are less sturdy.

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