As a regular pub quiz winner I like to think my general knowledge is pretty well rounded, however since placement has begun I’ve started to doubt myself quite regularly. For example my knowledge of the British occupation of Cyprus in the 50’s was atrocious. I have since come across almost a dozen elderly gentlemen who were stationed there during their time in the services and have heard so many astounding stories of that time.
Every now and again you have to do a quick google search to make sure you don’t put your foot in it but it does come in extremely handy to know a bit about something your patient has an interest in. Occasionally you can strike out such as asking a patient about their family if they have none left but don’t get disheartened just pick up another topic and roll with that one. Especially if they’re anxious or uncomfortable being in hospital, finding a middle ground they are happy to talk about can put them at ease almost instantly.
Just today a lady just about to go to surgery had such a spike in blood pressure the anaesthetist was refusing to put her under, so I got her chatting about her beautifully hand knitted cardigan I had noticed earlier. 5/10 minutes of small talk later about knitting patterns and her BP had dropped to 145/55 and the anaesthetist was happy to take her through to surgery. So get your practice in whenever you can, chat to the lady next to you on the bus or catch up with your neighbour. Not all patients are your age, nor are they all elderly so having a good foundation of knowledge can allow you to build a good rapport; be it with a 6-year-old boy about his dislike of the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack or a 94-year-old lady about her childhood in rural Ireland. One conversation can change a patient’s experience entirely so try and make that change a positive one.