Jessica, 1st year Adult Nursing, shares her experience about her second placement
jessica smith bradford uni
When I found out I was going to a nursing home for my second clinical placement, my heart sank. I imagined the people there living very sad existences. I worried that everyone would be fully dependent and have a low quality of life. I wondered how on earth I would be able to make myself useful to the residents. I was fully expecting to face complete vulnerability, and potentially futility.
There was so much diversity of personality and life experience to be appreciated. Each resident had their own quirks, some had been professionals in their time and were still mentally sharp. One lady with dementia had what I felt to be a genuinely kind soul, despite her illness she’d retained an overwhelmingly bright demeanour and despite her limited ability to communicate, her loving and gentle nature shone through. For every personality there was an opposite. Another lady with dementia was feisty and fiercely stubborn, she staunchly knew her own mind. Her behaviour wasn’t always seen as ‘acceptable’ but I really liked her and I connected with her by providing reassurance when she was anxious or agitated.Upon arriving at the home I quickly realised that my imagination had got the better of me. It wasn’t the gloomy place I’d conjured up in my head. It was a homely environment, resident’s rooms filled with family photos and mementos from their lives. Seeing these displayed made me more aware that the people there had had lives outside of the nursing home and that they’d not been forgotten as people.
One gentleman in the nursing home was vocal. I found that if he was shouting, if I kneeled next to his chair and held his hand while talking to him, his anger and frustration would visibly slip from his face. He often sat with a glazed look in his eyes but acknowledging with touch that he was there and clearly frustrated, changed the way his eyes looked. I’m not saying they ”lit up” and he instantly settled, but warmth and presence definitely came back to him, through this simple act of recognition.
I never thought I’d become a ”hand holder” before I started my training but within this environment it’s been such a valuable tool. It’s helped me to connect with people whose ability to communicate is limited, it’s been a replacement for when words won’t reach someone and it’s allowed me to connect with people in the present moment. I’ve felt that I’ve benefitted from making these connections with people as it’s helped me to trust myself when touch is appropriate and can enhance interactions.
For all I was worried about going to a nursing home, I found my preconceptions were unfounded. I had countless, genuinely lovely interactions with residents. I learnt how to appreciate many different layers of personalities on an individual basis, I discovered each resident’s history and despite my fear that a nursing home would be a depressing experience, I shared an awful lot of unexpected liveliness, humour and laughter with the residents.
Jessica Smith, 1st year Adult Nursing, University of Bradford