By Debra Pittam MACN
Recently, due to my body deciding to misbehave for the first time ever in its 56 years (a bit of a rude shock), I have found myself with a new experience to process, that of being an inpatient for the first time. This has given me a lot to reflect on both personally and professionally and I am sharing those reflections with you now, both to raise awareness of the impact of a negative experience and also to applaud, praise and appreciate our profession for when it gets it right. Because a lot of my work over the last many years has been helping health teams evaluate and improve team cultures, that is the lens through which I processed my experiences. I will say up front that the majority of care I have received everywhere has been excellent and I have met some truly amazing and wonderful nurses. I have decided though, to share both a negative and a positive experience because this is the reality of our health system and I believe we all can do something to change it. I didn’t have any power as the patient in the first story and this post is my way of contributing to that.
My negative experience I will not dwell on (nor will I identify the name or location of the hospital). We all know the impact of poor cultures on us as nurses, on team and patient care. What I will share is the impact it had on me as a patient. Firstly, the dread of shift changeover. Who will I get? Will they be competent? How nice will I have to be to them so that they might be kind? The relief when they are (and mostly they were). Secondly, the discomfort at hearing loud discussions outside the door of my room until 11pm by groups of health workers. And finally, the disquiet I felt hearing complaints every day about everything, including patients. None of these behaviours will be a surprise I know. However, I hope that sharing their impact on me as a patient is of some benefit to you.
My positive experience at a different location was so different and I name the Rehab Ward in Shoalhaven District Hospital because I think it deserves recognition. On this ward I heard staff looking out for each other, checking in and helping each other, caring for each other and sharing a laugh in a way that I as a patient felt was inclusive of everyone including us. Every shift change brought different wonderful people who all worked to the same standard. I no longer had to dread the shift change or wish for kindness. In terms of the care I received, it was incredibly competent and person-centred with the members of the team I came into contact with, all demonstrating excellent caring and willing to form a connection, however, brief the interaction. I felt well informed and experienced a level of advocacy on my behalf that made me so proud to be a nurse. The health system (generally) stripped me of my power as an inpatient and the staff on this ward helped me to feel as though I had regained some. I thank them and their Nursing Unit Manager as a patient and as a nurse, I admire and applaud them and am in awe of leadership that can inspire such a culture.