I don’t know if many of you watched Call the Midwife this week (massive fan #sorrynotsorry) but part of it really resonated with me. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the actual midwifery, I’ll have to leave that one to our resident student midwife bloggers, but there was one scene that really stood out as a fantastic example of patient advocacy.
In the episode a woman and her partner, both with achondroplasia, are expecting their first child. We see her anxiously awaiting a Caesarean section as she goes into early labour. On the ward prior to surgery the surgeon discusses her case bluntly in front of her to a crowd of medical students, speaking about her as if she wasn’t there. Later on in the episode we see her again with her new baby (after plenty of dramatic tension!), this time the doctor leads the ward round of students in but the nurse steps in and stops him with “Mrs Reed is not a specimen, she’s a mother”.
Sometimes on placement you may see staff refer to patients as “Bed 11”, “The side room”, or “The hip replacement”, just to give a few examples. We’re no longer in the 1950s so there’s really no excuse for patriarchal attitudes in healthcare! If you want to observe a procedure, always introduce yourself to the patient and ask their permission. Ensure your request is worded so there’s no pressure on them to agree and if your mentor or another nurse is asking for the patient’s consent on your behalf it’s sometimes better if you wait elsewhere. Although most patients are happy for you to take part in their care and observe learning opportunities, if you’re hovering at the bedside some patients may find it difficult to refuse even if they aren’t keen on having any observers.
If you ever notice any ‘Mrs Reed’ moments or see any aspect of a patient’s care that doesn’t sit right with you, it is so important that you find the courage to speak out and challenge these behaviours. For me, ‘The Nan Rule’ is a great mantra: if it’s not good enough for your grandma/parent/sibling/best friend etc.. then it’s not good enough for your patient. The #hellomynameis campaign started by Dr Kate Granger is another inspired idea to improve patient communication with empathy and compassion.
Never forget your patients are people too, always treat them with dignity and respect and speak up for them when you see situations you aren’t happy with. Always remember the NMC code of conduct and contact your AA and PEF if you’re worried about raising concerns.