As a final-year Open University student, my last challenge before I qualified was a service improvement project
Having worked on a busy acute medical unit and in other areas of a hospital for many years I felt mouth care could be improved upon - not due to poor practice but because it was busy I knew how difficult it was to find the time to complete all mouth care tasks.
My decision was made. I was to somehow come up with an idea which could be a visual prompt for staff to acknowledge who was most in need of mouth care, perhaps because of dysphagia or simply because they wore dentures and were unable to clean them alone.
”We come into the NHS with fresh eyes and often notice small things that could be changed to enhance the service for our patients”
In our trust we use magnetic trunking boards situated above the patients’ headboard on the wall upon which we write their name and any special instructions.
Would a mouth care magnet work?
I came up with a design, approached my matron - who thought it would be a great benefit to our patients - and the trial began.
Did it work?
”Even now my mouth care magnet is in use on that particular acute medical unit.”
I completed a survey to get some feedback. 50 staff members were asked and the feedback was positive - it had made a difference. The Mouth Care Magnet suggests relatives give their loved ones mouth care and I witnessed first-hand this happening a lot more than I had seen previously. Even now my mouth care magnet is in use on that particular acute medical unit.
“So don’t be afraid to come up with an idea of your own. If you have one, go for it.”
Throughout my service improvement project the Director of Nursing, End Of Life Team and Speech and Language Therapists were all extremely supportive and not only because they wanted to encourage me as a student but because they thought it was a good, cost effective idea (just £2.60 inc. VAT) which could - and did - work.
So don’t be afraid to come up with an idea of your own. If you have one, go for it.
We come into the NHS with fresh eyes and often notice small things that could be changed to enhance the service for our patients. I found encouragement and support from all levels within my trust and it has made a difference - even if just a small one. And if we all aim to make a small difference then the future of the NHS is likely all the brighter because of it.
Toni Kingston is a final-year student at Open University.