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'Simple kindnesses can and do make a huge difference to patients'

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Patients are at their most vulnerable while in hospital and look to us as nurses to provide reassurance, comfort and a form of caring love, says Hannah Pryke

Nt editorial hannah pryke

I am a nurse on an acute elderly care ward. I have been nursing in this directorate for several years and it is a specialty of nursing that I love.

It is also an area of nursing where I would avidly like to see and potentially initiate positive change for the future.

We are an aging population here in Great Britain, with the number of over 65s and older in the UK surpassing 10 million. Around a third of children born now in the UK can expect to survive to celebrate their 100th birthday (Source: Age UK). This is why it is so important to highlight and address any improvements that can be made to make sure the elderly in our society receive the best possible care when in our hospitals, and to safeguard a positive future for them.

It has struck me constantly throughout my training, and especially since qualifying, that there is a need for the ‘personal touch’. Simple kindnesses can and do make a huge difference to a patient, and to their family’s experience. This applies to any area of nursing but most especially in elderly care, I feel.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary (2016), ‘personal touch’ can be defined as ‘showing a special quality, or something that is done for every single person in order to make them feel special’.

I think the subtle art of a simple act of kindness, compassion, or a soft word or gentle touch to a patient is often underestimated. The transformational difference this can and does make to a patient’s mood and wellbeing is often forgotten. This is certainly something I have experienced both professionally and personally in hospital.

I am keen to encourage staff, especially nursing staff, to ADD VALUE to a patient’s day and I would love to start a national campaign of #ADDVALUETODAY amongst the medical and nursing community.

Unfortunately, some changes that are needed in elderly care may require a lot of money, which is something the NHS does not have in abundance. However, we can all work on improving some attitudes and behaviours that can sadly be prevalent especially in elderly care and nursing.

Many patients today experience what I call ‘careless cruelty’. This must be stamped out. Elderly medicine and nursing the elderly seems too often to be seen as inferior. This is not the case at all. The patients under our care are unique individuals and often have led amazing and interesting lives.

Growing old is sadly often a series of losses: losing friends, confidence, independence or physical and mental capabilities. Let’s seek to enhance our patients’ experiences through ‘personal touches’ that add value to their stay in hospital and their recovery.

Patients are at their most vulnerable whilst in hospital and look to us as nurses to provide reassurance, comfort and, yes, in my opinion a form of caring love.

I often listen to Saturday Live on Radio 4 and they always have a ‘thank you’ section where people can ring in to say thank you to someone who helped them and who they have been unable to thank before. So often people ring up to thank a nurse, and it is never for a huge significant event. It is always to say thank you to that nurse who sat and took the time to hold their hand, or wash their hair, or give them a listening ear when they were low.

What they ring in for is to say thank you for the ‘personal touches’ that added value. That kind and caring act is never forgotten, because it made a difference. Evidence shows that spending more time with patients enables nurses to bond with them. As a result, patients feel more comfortable communicating their needs and concerns (Wall Street Journal, 2016).

So a question I try and ask myself, and I now ask you, is ‘How can I add value to a patient’s day?’ It is certainly something to ponder on.

Hannah Pryke

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Is there a reference list available for this article?

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  • An act of kindness comes in many forms, more of this please, let us talk about the tiny things we do, it is helpful to take small steps to continually remind ourselves as nurses, that we can do this.
    Before you leave the room of a resident, or move away from the bed, stop, think, ask, what more can you do before you move on. So simple, so kind, so important.
    You will not win prizes, you will not be given a pay rise, you will just know that you have been kind.

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