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OPINION

'I have a mental list of personal nursing do's and don'ts'

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Student nurse, Elena Ivany, wants to increase social contact with patients as part of her personal nursing code of conduct

In preparation for my next practical placement, I have been trying to establish my personal nursing philosophy.

Working on the ward has encouraged me to create my own mini nursing code – a mental list of my personal nursing do’s and dont’s. Although most nurses will agree on a set of foundations for good nursing care, I have found that there are some elements of the nursing role that differ from person to person. In particular, I have been thinking about the value of social communication with patients, and whether finding the time to simply chat with clients is a valuable part of the nursing process.

As a rule, nurses are excellent communicators. They have to be, since so much of our work revolves around educating, explaining, advising and comforting. Verbal communication is not the only way of relating to clients but the power of the spoken word is strong.

A nurse who is able to use language effectively can turn an uncomfortable procedure into a more positive experience. Words can calm a patient down, motivate them or encourage them to comply with treatments.

I am sure there are many more examples to illustrate the fact that good nursing care and excellent communication skills go hand in hand. Yet a recent conversation with a qualified nurse got me thinking about whether, as nurses, we value all types of verbal communication the same.

In particular, I wanted to know whether time spent talking to patients socially was as valuable as the time spent on conversations that directly relate to the client’s healthcare. In other words, if I choose to find the time to chat to my patient about their upbringing, their hobbies or their favourite TV programme, am I performing a vital nursing role or am simply wasting time?

On a busy ward, where the nurse is the main point of contact for the patient, the medical team, the social care team and the patient’s relatives, time can be scarce. I struggle to think of occasions where there was little to be done on my first placement ward.

When nursing is about maintaining life and preventing death, I understand that social chats with patients are not the number one priority. Nonetheless, I cannot help but think that, in my personal mini nursing code, finding the time to really talk with clients is a key part of the nurse’s role. I can only imagine how isolating, scary and even boring being an in-patient must be. On those occasions when the world seems to be rushing past you as you lie in a hospital bed, or sit in a hospital chair, would you not want a little human company? A friendly chat, however brief, is an opportunity to bring out the individual in each patient.

Social communication allows the client to feel that they are a whole person rather than a hospital number with a medical condition. This is why, in my personal nursing code, finding the time to simply converse with patients is high on the list of nursing do’s. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • George Kuchanny

    Agreed Elena, A well rounded article. Not only good for clients - also good for nurse practitioners. Put bluntly (as you would never do) there is some job satifaction in peering at a clients face and having some idea of what they have in mind that amelorates the drudgery of peering at backsides all the time.

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  • I remember as a student on the Project 2000 course, we were sneered at by qualified and less qualified staff for trying to spend time talking to patients. Thank goodness the light is finally dawning!! Keep up the good work and good luck with the rest of your course.

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