As we celebrate World Mental Health Day week, it is important to bring to the attention of all nurses in Ghana, irrespective of where you work and your category; Registered General Nurse, Registered Mental Health Nurse, Enrolled Nurse or Community Health Nurse, that at no point in time should we in our line of duty deny a patient basic nursing care because of their appearance, social or mental status. It is our responsibility, as stated in the nurses pledge to care for the sick with all the skill we possess no matter what their [patient] race, creed, and colour, political or social status sparing no effort to conserve life, alleviate pain and promote health.
Florence Nightingale’s ‘dirty’ works at the war of Crimea earned her the enviable accolades which led to the birth of modern day nursing and toady, she epitomises a good nurse who would first care for and give basic nursing care to his or her patients without discrimination of colour or race. Nightingale exhibited a high level of patience, empathy and compassion in caring for the wounded soldiers and her progenitors – the modern day nurses are expected to be the hallmark and definition of their ancestor.
Florence Nightingale paid much attention to taking care of the personal hygiene of her patients (wounded soldiers) even in the battle field, dabbing their wounds to soothe their pains, ensuring their bathes, and preventing infection. Maintaining a patient’s personal hygiene, such as bathing, oral care, nail care, shaving, dressing, etcetera, are very important in the clinical setting as it prevents infection, boost a patient’s self-esteem among others.
Basic nursing therefore is fundamental to all the categories of nurses in Ghana as this is taught in the first year of the nursing training colleges. It is the foundation and fundamental knowledge a trainee nurse is expected to grasp and perform it professionally wherever they find themselves.
It is worrying these days to see some nurses paying less attention to patients’ personal hygiene and would rather concentrate on serving of medications. In fact, serving of medication is the last resort of a nurse. Medications are served when all other basic nursing care, as enumerated above are rendered holistically.
More appalling is how some registered general nurses ill-treat psychiatric patients at their facilities by denying them this basic nursing care. The psychiatric patient has the right just as any other patient to decent and proper treatment at any facility. The general nurse has no locus not to give basic nursing care to a psychiatric patient before referring him or her to a psychiatric hospital. Even if the patient is aggressive, as has been the excuse of many nurses, they have the responsibility to give treatment before the referral.
Recently a vagrant patient was ran over by a pick-up and rushed to the nearby hospital. Luckily the patient sustained minor injuries and even walked in when he was referred to the psychiatric from the general hospital. One can imagine the appearance of such vagrant patient who has been living his life on the street for years.
In a snapshot, the patient came in very tattered clothes, dirty skin with scales of peeling dirt soaked in his own sweat, convoluted dreadlocks dangling to the direction of the win, long nursed nails filled with sand dirt to the brim and sullen looking as though he has been denied food and survives on only water for weeks. Probably!
On his left hand, is a pile of white bandage pressed on top of visible dirt. We later discovered that the elbow was sutured. On the other right wrist is another white plaster. When the accompanying nurse was asked why they didn’t care for the patient hygiene by shaving his hair and given him a good bath, she just stared without a word.
So how did the general hospital managed to suture the patient’s hand and dress his wounds without even ‘cleaning’ him when the patient was not aggressive? Is that how the standard of Florence Nightingale nursing has fallen? The very basic nursing care she performed on the wounded soldiers is thrown to the gutters? Florence Nightingale is weeping in her grave for the falling standard of basic nursing in contemporary nursing.
Are the general nurses saying that they have no basic psychiatric knowledge to attend to psychiatric patients when they could not have completed their training course without learning psychiatric and being examined same in the licensing exams?
The patient is currently doing well and gave his name as Kwasi Acquah, from Dewunapong near Apam junction in the central region.
Anyone who knows his family should kindly contact Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in the central region.
The writer is a nurse and works at Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital, Cape Coast.
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