What primary care nurses have to say
Start by thinking of patients as people; not as a separate group.
Shared haemodialysis care educator and nurse, Northern General Hospital
I had always thought of myself as an empathetic person who considers that it is a person and not a patient in front of me. Putting their individual needs first is what nursing means to me and is the essence of care. Having said that, I realised I still had a lot to learn about person-centred care and could do more.
One simple way to adopt a person-centred approach is to ask patients how they would like to be cared for. They could have the capacity to be more independent than you might think and so it is important to ask them what they expect from you. This builds a relationship that is conducive to them feeling that you are interested in them as individuals. I would also ask them if it is important to them to have relatives involved in their care.
As healthcare professionals we are used to being in control and it can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed when we let the patients take the lead. This was initially my reservation to taking a more person-centred approach. However I feel that I gain more respect from patients if I am able to say that I don’t always know the answers to their questions.
So many complaints in the NHS stem from patients who feel that they have been let down and not listened to. We are heavily focused on getting patients in and out of the healthcare system. We need to slow the process down and listen to what people really need. They will feel better from this alone and benefit in the long-term. As a nurse, I have found the positive feedback from taking a more person-centred approach incredibly rewarding.
What patients have to say
Person-centred care has given me control of my long-term conditions.
I have not one, but several long-term conditions and endure the associated pain, depression and fatigue. Learning about person-centred care has led me to take more responsibility for my health. I now manage my conditions in a better way.
I have learned several practical ways to utilise person-centred care. For example, when I attend a consultation with a healthcare professional I come prepared with a list of things that I want to discuss. I also ask to talk through targets and goals which feel realistic and desirable to me.
This style of consultation seems entirely logical to me. A patient brings their day-to-day experience of living with one or more conditions to the consultation and can then benefit from a healthcare professional’s background and knowledge. I feel my consultations are more productive and that I have a more collaborative relationship with the healthcare professionals I meet with. I feel I am being listened to and we work together to find solutions to my problems.
Sometimes this approach does require a change from the healthcare professional. They need to be prepared to revolve around the patient’s needs and be comfortable letting you take a role in finding solutions.
My increased confidence and knowledge has enabled me to make decisions I wouldn’t have been able to previously. For example; I no longer take insulin for my type 2 diabetes. I found it very restrictive and I now manage the condition by leading a healthier lifestyle.
Being more involved and proactive in my health has been hugely beneficial to me. I feel far more positive about my health as I am in control of my conditions rather than them controlling me.