At some point during your student nursing life you are going to come across a patient that is unable to feed himself or herself unaided.
In these situations it may be you or another member of staff that will help out but who would be best placed to do this?
The accountability for a patient’s condition lies with the nurses.
They have to ensure that their patients are adequately fed. Shocking statistics have emerged detailing the number patients that leave hospital malnourished. Why? Probably a mix between the ward environment, the actual nutritional content of hospital food and the patient’s condition.
However one problem is that mealtimes often coincide with the nurses’ drug round and when trying to prioritise a nurse’s time, the medication round usually prevails. There are the auxiliary staff like healthcare assistants and associate practitioners, but on a busy ward there can be more patients in need than there are staff available.
The obviously simple answer would be to hire more members of staff but in times of financial austerity and cutbacks this is a luxury that few wards can afford. How about volunteers? The often secret workforce that runs shops, sells sundries on the ward and carries out admin tasks may be members of the ‘League of Hospital Friends’ or another voluntary organisation. Unfortunately the reality is that not every hospital ward in every trust has access to generous volunteers.
Finally we have relatives. Having considered some of the other options is it hard to imagine why this particular hospital trust would ask relatives to assist at mealtimes. There are clear benefits from the hospital’s perspective and I’m sure the purported outrage is in reality a few grumblings. Maybe the best solution would be a mixture of all the available options.
In my opinion we need to be honest and realistic. Hospitals have to be honest with the public and with relatives in conveying the rationale behind their decisions and, in turn, we all must be realistic in our expectations of the health service. The population is increasing and the funding seems to be decreasing so I think this is far from the last controversial subject that I will be discussing.
As usual I want to know what you think. What has been your experiences on a busy ward during mealtimes? How do the staff juggled their many responsibilities?
Let me know.