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'We are enhancing dignity by providing individualised care'

Joanna Murdoch
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I work on a surgical ward and we recently had two patients who received an unexpected terminal prognosis – both with young families.

This was truly devastating for all involved and had a big impact on us as a team. It made us think about how we can make an unbearable situation more bearable.

How can we go that extra mile to see the person behind the condition and deliver exceptional, holistic, patient-centred care that is extended to their loved ones? Ultimately, what can we do as nurses to make a difference to the lives and deaths of our patients?

After listening to our patients, and liaising with key speciality nurses and the local hospice, we developed the concept of declinicalising the environment in one of our side rooms. Trusted and empowered to us by our transformational ward sister, Gemma Lilley; we established a focus group of mixed skilled professionals from our ward.

“Dignity in the care setting is paramount for all the patients and family. To achieve this, we need to individualise patient care”

We set our goals, and evaluated what we hoped to achieve and how we would measure success. It was important that the concept remained patient lead, so feedback forms were developed to insure the integrity of the concept remains authentic.

Dignity in the care setting is paramount for all the patients and family. To achieve this, we need to individualise patient care.

Day to day, this side room functions as an acute surgical bed, however, with a few simple additions it can be transformed into “The Snug” – a place that offers a home from home environment for patients who are at the end of life, live with dementia or have a learning disability.

We included sensory lighting, an aromatherapy diffuser, comfortable seating, handcrafted blankets and cushions, de-escalation tools, a TV and a kettle for complementary drinks (including tea, coffee and hot chocolate).

Meal vouchers, toiletries and a Z bed are all provided to allow loved ones to stay over. A safe and private space, where patients and loved ones can spend valuable quality time together, in a comfortable, non-clinical environment.

“We have created a place of comfort and safety at a time when patients and families are left in a very frightening place”

We soon learnt that it is the small things that make a difference, such as being able to make a drink at 2am when they wish, rather than asking us for one.

This nursing initiative – inspired and led by the patients we care for – was born out of compassion and the will to enhance the dignity of our patients and extend this care to the people who matter most to them.

As an acute surgical ward, we pride ourselves on achieving the highest standards of care, and we feel that we have recognised what is important to our patients at a time of vulnerability and greatest need. We have created a place of comfort and safety at a time when patients and families are left in a frightening place.

This initiative has all been patient led; it can be replicated and built upon in other care settings. We are enhancing dignity by providing a level of independence, reducing anxiety and providing individualised and tailored care.

Joanna Murdoch is staff nurse, Lundy Ward, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust

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