Before my I started my training, I worked for a residential home assisting young adults with profound learning disabilities.
We all need compassion and kindness
I have always wanted to be a nurse and felt gaining experience in the field would help me in the years to come.
Whenever a resident was admitted to hospital, I was happy to go with them as their carer, however what I did not expect to see was the worry and apprehension from health professionals about approaching and caring for those with a disability.
No one was actively discriminating them and not every person I have come across acts in this way, however, there is still enough worry and apprehension about looking after individuals with a disability for it to be a problem.
No words can explain how this fear hurt my feelings as a carer – let alone the individual who needed care and compassion. I naively thought that people with a disability were seen as the same as anyone else – an individual in need of compassion and care.
“The fear of making something worse sometimes makes things worse”
Nerves are understandable when experiencing something new; however the fear of making something worse sometimes makes things worse.
I witnessed people talk to me rather than attempt to talk to their patient. We are taught to deliver non-judgemental care and not make assumptions about an individual’s capacity. Where do these principles go when we are caring for someone with a disability?
Although people with a disability may have difficulty communicating, they are not naive to body language and they feel the hostility. This is absolutely unfair and should not happen at any cost.
Positivity and kindness are key factors in improving health and when they are not being given it, what is someone to do apart from feel like a burden? This is something we should not want any patient to feel. How is an individual supposed to trust if we do not make the effort to learn and understand?
People often say to me, “I don’t know how to talk to them”, “I don’t know what they like” or “I don’t want to upset them” – all things that come from kindness and fear of making a mistake.
Please make an effort to ask carers or parents. Most individuals will have a hospital passport, which explains their diagnosis; likes and dislikes; allergies; and how to help and assist them.
Hospital passports are wonderful things that allow for nurses and other health professionals to gain a better insight into how to make an individual’s hospital stay slightly easier. It just means taking that extra step that we should take for all of our patients.
“Advocating and being a voice for our patients is vital”
As nurses – student or qualified – we must be committed to all of our patients and we must make an effort to ensure all hospital stays are smooth.
Advocating and being a voice for our patients is vital and we must maintain therapeutic relationships with each person in our care.
People with disabilities smile, laugh and cry just the same as anybody else and I’m surprised to say that I still witness apprehension towards those with a disability on hospital wards.
A little effort goes along way and emotional care is just as important as the physical aspects of care. Please ensure that we are delivering all of the fundamentals of care to every person.
Jasmine Hall is studying adult nursing at Oxford Brookes University