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'Personal attention allotted to patients can make a tremendous difference'

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As a sepsis survivor, when I deliver awareness-raising talks to healthcare groups, I am often approached by nurses, who are particularly interested in my perspective as a patient, given that they don’t often receive this kind of overall assessment.

kirsten lavine

Two years ago, a diagnostic hysteroscopy led to me contracting severe sepsis, during which time I spent over a month in hospital – both in an intensive treatment unit (ITU) and on a regular ward.

While both the medical treatment and nursing care I received were generally excellent, I believe there were certain specific factors, which played a key role in improving my overall hospital experience.

For me, the most definitive element was being treated as an individual. I think it is important to not only care for a patient with dignity, respect and kindness, but to also try and regard each as a unique person with individual needs and concerns.

I appreciate that this is not always easy in such a busy hospital environment, but I believe that being viewed as an individual rather than the embodiment of a medical chart can have a significant and immediate effect on a patient’s feelings of wellbeing.

Even in the frenetic activity of both the ITU and regular ward, I was impressed and moved by the level of kind, personal attention I was frequently given.

My room in ITU, for example, contained a whiteboard which listed personal details, including preferences such as my favourite music, which was played for me, while one nurse even read to me from a book I had with me.

Similarly, my long-term veganism was respected, and I was allocated space in the ward’s fridge in which to store my perishable food brought from home.

In a confined, low-stimulus environment, it was reassuring to see familiar, friendly faces among the nurses, and several took an interest in details of my personal life. I looked forward to chatting with them on their rounds, and these exchanges helped to make an immensely difficult experience more bearable and humane.

Another aspect that was very important to me was being given clear information about my condition and details pertaining to the treatment. This may not be the case for everyone, but it’s best not to assume that patients cannot or do not want this information.

”I feel it is imperative to involve the close family and friends when they are on hand”

In my case, being offered regular updates and receiving more specific answers to the questions I asked would have helped me to develop a greater understanding of my current state and projected recovery.

Finally, I feel it is imperative to involve the close family and friends when they are on hand. This is both in seeking their views on the patient’s care, but also in looking out for their own wellbeing at such a stressful time.

The nurses were very communicative with my partner, explaining equipment and charts for example, and allaying many of his concerns about my treatment. I greatly appreciated the mindfulness and compassion that they also displayed to him.

There is no doubt that nurses work tirelessly in challenging circumstances to provide exemplary care for their patients. Personal attention allotted to patients could perhaps be seen as an added bonus – one I feel that makes a tremendous difference, not only in boosting the overall recovery and wellbeing of the patient, but also in helping to transform a traumatic situation into a more positive and healing experience.

Kirsten Lavine is the author of A Measure of Light: Surviving Sepsis and Reclaiming my Spirit. See www.measureoflight.net for further details.

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