Depending on the year you are currently in, you may be expected to do different things around the ward.
Don’t be surprised if, as a first year, initially you are asked to work with healthcare assistants to support the patients with washing and meal times. Although you may be chomping at the bit to be doing ‘nursing’ tasks such as wound dressings and medication rounds, take a step back and remember that ensuring a patient maintains adequate nutrition/hydration and that they have their personal hygiene needs met are also part of the nurse’s job. Washing a patient is an excellent opportunity to check their pressure areas for any impending damage and act before a pressure ulcer develops. Helping a patient with their meals allows you time to assess how they are coping with eating and drinking – maybe their swallowing isn’t up to snuff and a referral to the Speech and Language Team (SALT) is in order. Remember that every moment you have with a patient is time to be answering their questions, finding out what kind of things they might be worried about, reducing their anxiety with information and support, and offering little snippets of health promotion in a casual and non-dictatorial fashion. Thinking beyond the patient, working with all the different staff members on the ward will help you get acquainted with the whole team. Understanding how a ward team function is very important to finding out how you are going to fit in during the following weeks.
From the minute that patient is admitted to your ward to the minute they leave, EVERYTHING is a nursing task and deserves your full attention. You will learn something from every task you do.
To put a bit of theory into your practice:
Assisting your patients with a wash is a wonderful time to develop the therapeutic nurse-patient relationship that can make a rather unpleasant hospital stay just about bearable. Muetzel’s (1988) model of therapeutic nursing breaks down our nurse-patient relationships into ‘partnership‘, ‘intimacy‘ and ‘reciprocity‘. The model is concerned with how we work together with our patients, how we create a professional bond and how we aren’t afraid to admit that we get something out of those nurse-patient encounters too.
It’s all in the model: showing patients we truly care about their wellbeing, exercising good communication skills, displaying compassion and making sure they know they can trust us to support them on their road to recovery. It includes valuing patients as equals who are capable of making their own choices about care given the right amount of information and support from their healthcare professionals. It also says that it’s ok to give as well as receive. Nursing is a tough profession and most of us, when asked why we nurse, will give a reason that essentially expresses a desire to care for others. Part of caring for others is how that makes us feel in return and being aware of what we get out of nursing is important – the pride in the profession, the satisfaction of solving a problem, the joy we get from helping those in need – all these things keep us going through the long days and nights at work.
Muetzel PA (1988). Therapeutic nursing. In Pearson, A. (Ed.), Primary Nursing: Nursing in the Burford and Oxford Nursing Development Units. Croom Helm: Beckenham.