As a nurse in Critical Care for over 20 years I have supported many relatives through difficult times. I thought I did this well. Although I was well intentioned and considered myself to be well informed, I fell, almost unwittingly, into assuming I knew what was best for relatives.
I assumed I knew what was best for them. I assumed I knew what their needs were. In short – I assumed.
My days of assumption started to change as my professional role extended in the last 10 years. I routinely spent time with patients and families after they left the Intensive Care Unit and transferred to general wards. I was afforded an extraordinary gift. Relatives gifted me a firsthand account of how it really felt to have the person that mattered to them hooked up and wired up, in the overwhelming world of Intensive Care.
Some of their needs were things I had never considered before, or that I may have dismissed as unimportant. However, by actively listening to relatives, two themes emerged over time. The first was the need for simplified information of the critical care environment and the second was the need for more physically comfortable facilities.
The Adult Critical Care Unit has worked hard in both of these areas to meet the needs of relatives.
Our first action was to attempt to address the need for simple information by transforming our waiting area. We developed a poster map of the unit as well as a poster showing all the equipment we use with an explanation of how it works / what it does. This has proved very beneficial with relatives often taking pictures of them to send to other family members unable to visit to help explain what was happening. We also asked a relative of a former patient to write a letter to describe how it feels having a loved one in intensive care. This is in the visiting area and is there to support relatives going through the same experience.
Visiting a loved one in ACCU is very important for relatives. We therefore adopted a flexible approach to visiting. We put together a “clock” offering guidance of when care is being delivered so that relatives know what to expect and can plan their visit so they aren’t having to spend long periods in the relatives room or waiting areas.
This was the second need we recognised as a priority area because the relatives of our critically ill patients often choose to stay in hospital for days at a time. By listening to the feedback we knew we needed to have softer lighting and add some soft furnishing to create a warmer and more relaxing place for relatives to rest when not in the Unit.
I felt that these simple changes would have a beneficial impact on our relative experience. However, once again I was assuming I was meeting the needs of the relatives. Therefore, it became important that we developed a formal feedback process to measure that we were effectively improving the quality of the relative experience. We put together a relative experience survey and have a post box in our waiting area to allow relatives to anonymously give us their feedback as well as promoting other ways to provide feedback.
Written feedback is excellent and there are many avenues to do this through care opinion or formal letters. However, from my personal experience, the power of receiving feedback in person was tremendously motivational. It inspired me to ensure that we were supporting families in a purposeful way ...... and not in a way that I assumed they needed. Please gift us your feedback – It’s how we make your experience better.
If you have an experience of the Adult Critical Care Unit you would like to share, please speak to a member of staff, respond on Care Opinion, or visit the “Your Feedback” Section of the NHS Lanarkshire website to see the other ways to get in touch www.nhslanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk
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Update from NHS Lanarkshire
Posted by Audrey McConnachie, Senior Charge Nurse, Adult Critical Care, University Hospital Wishaw, NHS Lanarkshire, on
About: University Hospital Wishaw