A conflict of interest can arise for any of us, perhaps if you have worked as an HCA or if an acquaintance is admitted to your ward, so it’s important to consider how you would handle it.
The conflict of interest I experienced on placement was completely unexpected and in these situations your reactions may not be as you might hope.
My blog reflects upon an unexpected interaction with the mother of a child requiring observation on the neonatal unit where I was on placement.
The mother was introduced by the attending medic as a paediatric nurse. But even when it was mentioned that her workplace was a hospital where my own child had spent extended periods of time as a patient she didn’t appear familiar to me.
So I didn’t see, or declare, a conflict of interest.
This proved to be an error when I was recognised and acknowledged and the mother asked perfectly reasonable questions about how my child was when I was called in to assist a doctor in siting a cannula.
”Putting her in that situation is something that I am very uneasy about”
The doctor was not aware of my own child’s long admissions to hospital as I had adopted the philosophy of only informing people that I felt should be aware of my personal history.
When she picked up the conversation, she asked what can be considered to be a normal conversational question regarding my child. Consequently, I had to explain details which made her feel uncomfortable; putting her in that situation is something that I am very uneasy about and am eager to avoid repeating.
”I shouldn’t take a situation at first glance, and should always appraise myself of all details”
I learnt several things from this interaction, firstly that I shouldn’t take a situation at first glance, and should always appraise myself of all details in order to make the most informed decision and take appropriate action from there.
Secondly, the sutuation put the colleague I was working with into an uncomfortable position.
After the event I spoke at length to my mentor about how I had handled the situation and to ask for any feedback.
”I was relieved to be told that I had acted professionally”
I was relieved to be told that I had acted professionally and not allowed the situation to impact on my care of the child and his mother. However, I have changed the way in which I approach situations where I recognise that there may be a conflict of interest. I plan to always consider whether I should be the person to offer care if there is any indication that I might not be.
While I’m not sure I would change my decision not to inform everyone of my personal history, I would perhaps speak to the unit manager for guidance on how best to approach those staff members who are not part of the nursing team.
I realise that not all situations are going to be as extreme as mine. However, preparing yourself for the possibility of a conflict of interest situation can only be seen as best practice - a foundation of our profession.
Jane Green is in her second year studying child nursing at Anglia Ruskin University