The importance of listening

I was doing observations on a 7 week old baby admitted onto the ward yesterday and found his parents to be very reluctant to contribute, quite stand offish and short with me. They’d previously been into A&E in a city about half an hour away by car to the hospital they were in now and hadn’t been told that there was a possibility that they’d have to stay over. They also don’t drive and have had to use public transport which takes considerably longer. They’d had lots of bad experiences with the NHS spanning years on lots of levels, in lots of different places. They were understandably worried about their baby, and had been told a different story by each person that they’d spoken to.

After results came back to confirm that he was RSV+, Mum and Dad were both quite panicked. Sometimes I find that parents get upset and worry excessively when a name of an illness is given without being explained to the full story about the illness. After taking baby’s observations, I spoke to the couple at length about their reasons for having little confidence in the NHS and it all made sense as to why they were quite reserved initially after being admitted to the ward. I got the staff nurse to come and speak to them honestly about the baby’s condition and explain the ins and outs so they understood. I gave them an RSV information pack for them to read over and reassured them that yes, it was quite common and that, yes, they’d be taken good care of on this ward. I built up a good relationship and rapport with the couple by understanding the reasons behind their lack of confidence in the NHS and their unwillingness at staying the night which broke down so many barriers.

It’s nice as a student nurse to have the opportunity and the time to sit with parents and talk with them about their child and their child’s care and to understand their situations. After I’d got the couple food and drink, sorted out some baby-grows, milk and nappies for the baby (they’d not been made aware they may stay over so they didn’t bring enough with them for the night and next day), made the bed and spent time supporting them, they truly thanked me, and thanked me especially for ‘listening’. I think the key to understanding and caring to the best of your ability is to take the time to listen to and be genuinely interested in what patients are saying to you and not to just think that they’re having a bad day. There is so much more to a person than what you see, and they’re full of experiences and views generally shaped on what they’ve been exposed to before.

As a student nurse, I often feel limited in my technical abilities, but there really are things that you can do that will make a difference. The couple I met I assume are not the only patients that feel this way, and by taking the time to listen and to help, each of us can really make a small difference every single day. If each one of us took the time to do this, the problems people experience would be reduced significantly.

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One thought on “The importance of listening

  1. Pingback: The profession that dare not speak its name | grumbling appendix

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