A new view: life on the receiving end of the care services

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I know that at the end of my last blog I said that I would be looking at the central principle of the Care Act – ‘wellbeing’ and I will pick this up next month. However, this month I had an experience of being on the ‘other side of care services’ and it reminded me of how seemingly simple things can have a huge impact on relationships, trust, confidence and emotional ‘wellbeing’.
Having a close family member admitted to an acute hospital as an emergency, transferred to another hospital for treatment and recovery really demonstrated the NHS at its very best.
Despite the misleading, inaccurate and sensationalist headlines and reporting that our national press indulge in to sell papers, my recent experience has reinforced my belief that the vast majority of NHS staff are committed to doing their very best for the strangers they come into contact with each and every working day. Strangers who are frightened, in pain, bewildered and distressed and whose behaviour as a result can be challenging to manage. Yet despite the difficulties the vast majority of staff are patient, understanding, knowledgeable, skilled, caring and compassionate as they seek to find an acceptable resolution for those at the edge of the human predicament (living with meaning and purpose and an acceptance that death is an inevitability of life).
I certainly observed this first hand as, regardless of their role, be it paramedic, doctor, nurse, health care assistant or porter, these qualities were repeatedly demonstrated. During their hospital stay my relative had some difficult days, and nights, before their recovery and discharge home. Not able to be there all the time, I felt able to trust the staff to provide the type of care needed, for most of the time anyway. There was one short period of time, however, when I was less certain this would happen.
What happened to change my view? Well actually something really simple. When my relative appeared to improve they were transferred to another ward. When we arrived the nurse we met first told us that they wouldn’t introduce themselves as they were going off duty in 5 minutes (then sat at the ward desk for another 15-20 minutes). We were then left in unfamiliar surroundings until I went to ask for help as I could see that the shift handover had finished.
I guess I was disappointed because up until that point everyone we had encountered had introduced themselves to us. This was reassuring and made us feel that they understood how we were feeling and what we needed in terms of reassurance about what was happening. Introducing ourselves is the first step in building a relationship with anyone and gaining their trust. Both of which are vital in these circumstances. I would argue they are also essential to the healing process too as they can have either a positive, or negative, impact on our sense of emotional wellbeing. The lack of recognition and understanding by that nurse of the importance of introducing themself to us made me feel cautious and slightly mistrustful. Neither of which are ingredients for a successful relationship. Were we not worth a few words? I do recognise that we are all human and that at the end of a 12 hour shift compassion and understanding levels will be running on empty. Perhaps it’s best not to transfer patients around handover time? Thankfully the other staff were welcoming and trust was restored as a result reassuring me that my relative was in safe hands.
My reason for writing about this? Well I am not the only person to notice how few health professionals introduce themselves and tell people the role they will play in their care. Or to recognise the negative impact to a person’s self esteem and sense of trust in others that this has. So I wanted to share with you Kate Granger’s campaign to improve relationship building and trust.
Dr Kate Granger is a specialist registrar working in elderly medicine in Yorkshire and her Twitter campaign ‘Hello My Name Is’ was born out of her experiences of ‘being on the other side’ following her diagnosis with a rare and aggressive form of sarcoma( bone cancer ). Kate is terminally ill and since her diagnosis she has written a blog and two books about her experiences as well as launching her campaign.

The hospitals we visited during our recent experience both had ‘Hello my Name is …’ posters on the front of each patient folder to remind staff to introduce themselves and all but that one nurse did introduce themselves so the message is getting through.
So regardless of where you work if your aim is to put people you meet at their ease and to gain their trust in you then please remember to introduce yourself and tell them how you will be involved in their care as well as asking them their name and what they prefer to be called.
Equally if you find yourself ‘on the other side’ and the person you are talking to has not introduced themselves then start the conversation by introducing yourself ‘ Hello, my name is …. And I’m …….. and you are?’ We are all human and in the busyness and fast pace of life we can all forget the basics of communication and sometimes a little prompting is all it takes to get us back on track. So over to you…..
You can comment and follow the progress of Kate’s campaign on Twitter
#hellomynameis

To read about Dr Kate Granger’s story and find out more about who has signed up to her campaign as well as useful resources and events go to:
http://hellomynameis.org.uk/home
To read Kate’s moving and inspirational blog go to http://drkategranger.wordpress.com/about/
So until next time ….

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