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STARTING OUT: Nurses can give advice but patients can ignore it

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WE MAY give advice on healthy living to patients but some still choose to ignore it, so putting their long-term health needlessly at risk.

WE MAY give advice on healthy living to patients but some still choose to ignore it, so putting their long-term health needlessly at risk.

The following strange, sad little story, told to me by a coronary care nurse, is a case in point.

Mrs B was admitted with an acute myocardial infarction. She and her husband, both long-term unemployed, led a sedentary existence – eating large amounts of junk food and taking no exercise. Mrs B had ballooned to 15 stone.

However, she did respond to treatment and before discharge the nurse explained to her the science of furred-up arteries and saturated animal fats, and helped her to work out a healthy living programme.

The results seemed spectacular. Mrs B followed the nurse’s advice and appeared at the hospital a year later totally transformed.

She had shed four stone and looked vivacious and happy. She had even found a full-time job.

‘So,’ I said to the nurse, ‘a happy ending?’
‘Well, no,’ she replied,
‘a sad one. I didn’t see Mrs B for a while after that, then I bumped into her in Glasgow. She’d regained every pound she’d lost and looked unwell – a prime candidate for another myocardial infarction.

‘What happened was that her husband felt insecure because she’d become so attractive and, sitting alone all day, he was tormented by the fear that he would lose her to another man.

‘It was nonsense but she couldn’t bear to see him suffering, so she gave up her job and slipped back into her old way of life to keep him happy.’

She gave a rueful smile. ‘It’s a hard lesson when you’re starting out but patients don’t always act in their own best interests. We nurses can give them all the good advice in the world but we can’t force them to act on it. Ultimately the choice is theirs.’

Lesley McHarg is a second-year student, Paisley University

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