In July, I travelled to Lordes with the charity HCPT as my elective placement.
As well as other HCPT volunteers, I was joined by a total of 19 VIPs with varying levels of physical and mental health disabilities. I shared a room with the deputy group leader and a woman who had suffered a stroke seven years ago and as a result had restricted mobility.
During the week we had plenty of activities. The group stayed at Hosanna House, a comfortable accommodation for pilgrims in Bartres which makes you feel familiar whilst maintaining the necessary health and safety precautions for all. Additionally, the view of the Pyrenees from the sitting room is indisputably breathtaking.
The pilgrimage was an educational one. The group nurse as well as the VIPs explained the indications, contraindications and frequency of taking particular medications.
“The qualified nurses and experienced helpers advised me about treatments for chronic conditions I had not encountered yet”
Moreover the qualified nurses, experienced helpers and VIPs advised me about personal care and different treatments for people with chronic conditions which I had not encountered yet during my placements as a student nurse.
Furthermore my pilgrimage to Lourdes improved my empathy for other specialities, for instance learning disability nurses.
By talking to the VIPs I learnt about NHS initiatives and schemes introduced for people in communities and hospitals with mental and physical disabilities such as Stroke Club and MS Club.
“I had a very insightful conversation with two VIPs about their views on others’ lack of understanding of physical disabilities”
Also whilst waiting in Lourdes airport I had a very insightful conversation with two VIPs about their views on others’ lack of understanding of physical disabilities. Both of the women were in wheelchairs and expressed their frustration of experiencing poor treatment in care settings where people assumed that their physical condition somehow affects their mental function.
A woman with MS described how a man had ignored and spoken over her to the group nurse, who had immediately instructed the man to ask her directly.
Similarly the other woman recounted how common it was for young children to stare awkwardly at her because they had not been educated about why some people require wheelchairs. She said that in the future there should be a greater focus on parents informing children about physical disability instead of sheltering children from the subject.
“VIPs and pilgrims travel with HCPT groups with varying religious beliefs and faiths”
Lourdes is often associated with Catholics because of the religious significance of St. Bernadette. However it can be argued that the location is equally important from a social perspective with its emphasis on travelling with people with disabilities and living together as initiated sixty years ago by Dr. Michael Strode to offer VIPs as many opportunities as possible.
VIPs and pilgrims travel with HCPT groups with varying religious beliefs and faiths. Indeed the charity HCPT is not officially a Catholic charity, hence I reason that the location is ideal for student nurses to develop their practical and clinical competencies.
I would like to encourage other student nurses to get involved with HCPT and I feel Hosanna House would be a great choice for student nurses for an elective placement.
Genevieve Elliott is a current student nurse
You can find out more about the charity, HCPT here: http://www.hcpt.org.uk/