Handling complaints: what I never learnt as a waitress

I have never been good at receiving complaints. Before I started my nursing degree, I worked as a waitress for 5 years. It was not uncommon to deal with customer complaints on a daily basis, and I would always just say “I’m really sorry about that. I’ll speak to my manager” which was always a fail safe. 98% of the time, the customer didn’t want to speak to me anyway!

Image result for waitress

Accurate picture of me listening to customer complaints

But that changed when I started my nursing. Suddenly, whilst trying to make small talk with patients, I was being confronted with complaints about care they had received in the past or at that very moment. I couldn’t get away with my usual spiel because care complaints are more specific, more personal. You have to say something, and sorry doesn’t quite cut it.

I remember, very vividly, the first time I saw a nurse deal with a complaint efficiently. The patient in question was raising her concerns about the referral system for district nurse visits after a stay in hospital. Her care had been delayed due to this. The nurse I was working with listened to her very carefully, occasionally (when appropriate) asked for more detail and did not seem flustered at all. She then thanked the patient, said she would follow this up but urged her to voice her complaint at PALS.

PALS stands for Patient Advice and Liaison Service. It is confidential, and designed to provide support for patients, relatives and carers.

I was amazed at how calmly the whole situation went. Although the patient was upset initially, she was clearly at ease by the end of the visit, and I felt it was due to her being able to voice her opinion. And she was actively encouraged to talk about her concerns as Image result for complaintsit helps the NHS grow as an organisation! And it inspired me!

Since this event, I feel as though I have been inundated with patient complaints. Sometimes I feel as if there is a secret sign on my head that says please voice your thoughts at me!. I have now had endless practice at being calm and friendly, with some situations leading to me having to be a little firm (I will not be shouted at). I find that listening a lot, speaking barely at all, seems to work. Asking them to expand, answering questions when needed, and most importantly not denying their claims. It is extremely important, I think, to acknowledge that not every care interaction is perfect or goes to plan. We must embrace feedback, negative or not! Whether it comes from a staff member, a patient or a relative; complaints should be listened to!

Always speak to your mentor or a staff member about a patient’s complaints. 

Healthy Eating-YES you can!

Since starting Nursing I feel I have been unintentionally gaining unwanted weight and with each academic year I promise myself this year will be different. And we all know how New Year resolutions turns out (sad, but true). I use to be great at meal prepping and avoiding junk food. After my night shifts and the ridiculous long hours I started to feel tired, stressed and would skip meals or ate whatever was easiest at the time (most of the time it was junk food *sigh*). I stopped cooking (which I love to do), I did not stick to my usual routine of eating (big breakfast, medium lunch and smaller dinner), instead I would skip all meals and eat one large meal when I got home at 9PM (yes, very unhealthy eating at that time) and that meal could sometimes be just toast (once i ate 8 pieces of toast within a 24 hour period *ashamed*). Then in the morning I would be so HANGRY (hungry & angry) because I want to eat but don’t have time to eat. At times I would come home from a long day, knowing I have a 04:30am start the next day I would make a decision: to eat, to shower, to sleep? and most of the time it was to sleep.

But this September I decided enough was enough and did something about it. These are my five tips to eating healthy/better and working a 12 hour shift (night shifts are the worst for eating properly- its so easy to eat nonsense, especially when staff bring in quick food to munch on).

#1 MAKE LUNCH: During first year I use to cook lovely delicious healthy meals and bring in nutritious snacks and occasionally a cheeky chocolate bar. I bought a new lunch box, wrote out a meal plan for the week and stuck to it. (most of my time is spent thinking about what to eat). Plus I get to use my half hour (if that) to actually sit and eat properly rather then going to a shop to get a sandwich (that I do not want) and eat quickly in ten minutes.

#2 ALWAYS MAKE LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE: you will never wake up early (earlier rather) to make your lunch. I have lied to my self more than I can count, I’d rather sleep then eat (as we have already established :-p). You are always to tired before work to cook anyway. I suppose for night shifts it is a little easier.

#3 DRINK WATER: I keep a 1 litre of water with me all the time. I am continuously drinking. This not only keeps you hydrated but also stops you from snacking on biscuits/chocolates.  To be honest, water is my answer to everything! It reduces my headaches, my cravings and keeps me focused. Not to mention how great water is for your skin. It keeps you less stressed through the day as you are hydrated and makes you feel full (so you don’t get HANGRY).

#4  NEVER SKIP MEALS: As I have mentioned I have a huge tendency to do that. It is easy to skip meals when you are in a busy working environment. Make time to eat, you owe that to yourself. If you can not got for a lunch break, keep fruits, granola bars with you and munch on them as you write your nursing notes. If you skip meals, you go home hungry and feel you can eat your whole fridge.

#5 AVOID JUNK: Easier said than done, I know. But if you remove junk from your household and do not buy them when you are out then you will avoid the excess sugar and fat. I’ve started to buy lots of fresh fruit and veg, from continuously eating such food you can change your cravings and habits. I really believe that the more your eat healthy the more your body wants healthy food. Once I was addicted to carrots and hummus, I would keep a bag of carrot sticks and a pot of hummus with me all the time because I craved it.

Bottom line. You can eat healthy whilst being a nurse. Bring healthy snacks with you to munch throughout the day. Try to have your lunch halfway through your shift (I know that can be difficult). When patients give the staff chocolates to say thank you, be careful with your hand because it will have a mind of its own and you will end up eating one to many! I truly believe that a healthy nurse is an efficient nurse, it will allow you to be always on your ‘A game’ and you will feel great!

Please share any tips you have to eating better on a 12 hour shift.

 

Remembering our Red Cross roots

We’re all familiar with the famous red cross emblazoned across old-fashioned nurses uniforms and  fancy dress costumes, but links to that famous symbol and the nursing profession go waaay back.RedCrossNursen.jpg

Today marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the birthday of founder, Henry Dunant, who set up the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva over 150 years ago after witnessing horrific scenes during the Battle of Solferino in Italy, where thousands of soldiers, on both sides, were left to die on the battlefield.

He founded the movement on seven fundamental principles – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality  – of which all Red Cross societies around the world still base their work today.

I can’t help but think those principles apply just as much to nursing – in fact, Henry Dunant says that it was the work of Florence Nightingale in the Crimea that inspired him. It’s pretty amazing to think that the heroic efforts and ideas of a nurse inspired the largest humanitarian movement in the world!

During the first World War, thousands of nurses were needed at home and on the front line to care for soldiers wounded in battle. Under the banner of the Red Cross, trained nurses were sent to military hospitals across Europe, while at home, they recruited thousands of volunteers – known as Voluntary Aid Detachments or VADs – to help run all kinds of vital services including new auxiliary hospitals being set up around the country, often in stately homes like Dunham Massey in Cheshire. By 1918, there were over 90,000 Red Cross VADs, both men and women.

These volunteers, many of whom might not have ever thought of nursing, were suddenly thrust into a strange and scary world, learning to treat horrific wounds that had never been seen before, most of which was way beyond their experience or comfort zone. Sound familiar?

4397471329_78424dfa48_b.jpg

Like now, there was a huge emphasis on training but exam questions were a little different, like: ‘How do you make peptonised beef-tea?’ or ‘How would you prepare a linseed meal poultice, an ice poultice, and a mustard poultice? What are the indications for their use?’ Their version of pharmacology and drug calculations!

Some Red Cross VADs, like Vera Brittain, joined trained nurses in hospitals on the front to care for British and German soldiers alike. Vera Brittain famously wrote about her experiences in her biography A Testament of Youth, published some years after she returned from a military hospital in France, heartbroken having lost her brother and her beloved husband. It’s definitely worth a read – or the film is on Netflix, if you’re looking for a study break!

Red Cross nurses became a familiar sight during World Wars I and II, but they were still needed after war had ended. While the NHS was finding it’s feet, Red Cross nurses and VADs continued to run hospitals around the country – and the link with the NHS still continues today, with Red Cross volunteers offering support to patients when they return form hospital as part of the their support at home services.

Anyway – history lesson over, I promise! I just wanted to take a moment to remember all the Red Cross nurses before us – as the next generation of nurses, we owe so much to their courage and determination.

Was one of your family a VAD? The British Red Cross have an online archive of thousands of VAD record cards, so you can find your own little piece of Red Cross history.