3.01.2008

Legacy

Something my friend and fellow health care blogger JackOfHares posted tied into something I posted previously.

What's the most elegant and cost-effective way you can think of to provide care for an elder who's one of your own? I'm not just talking about family, maybe a teacher, co-worker, friend, etc.

I'm approaching this question from the perspective of nursing, both because it's what I'm engaged in and they're the ones often charged with caring for the elderly.

So, how would you provide good nursing care to someone at home on the cheap?

Imagine, if you will, that you're a nursing instructor. You have a bunch of students and an elderly person who needs care at home. The students, due to the nature of the health care field, may have trouble finding a health care position before actually becoming licensed.

There's a natural fit, here. An instructor might hand-pick trusted students to care for this person at a lesser expense than hiring home health aides. The students can practice their assessments and the delivery of routine care (obviously they can't practice nursing or medicine without a license), and the elder benefits from enjoying the company of many different bright, young(ish) students to converse with and keep the mind active.

Thinking about this, it occured to me that this is, at least in theory, what's supposed to be happening on the medical/surgical units we tend to occupy during our clinical practicum. As far as hospital nurse/patient ratios, med/surg is pretty "bad", and they can always use the extra help the students bring to the floor. Better still, we can act pretty independantly so the staff RN's time can be used more efficiently. Of course, they still have to review all of our documentation, but if we can take, say, a lengthy wound-care procedure off their hands, they have more time to deal with the rest of their load.

So, someone's obviously had this idea before me. I love med/surg units because they have the potential to be so chaotic. To many of the people there, despite receiving excellent care, that unit is the worst place in the world to them. They may be dealing with stressfull news, painful wounds and/or diseases, and are too sick to go home, while also being too well to go to a specialty unit. The acuity is supposed to be low, but in reality it can fluctuate unpredictably. The RNs tend to be overburdened and stuck putting out fires, so when we actually have time to sit down with someone for 20 minutes and just keep them company, it can make a big difference to their level of consciousness, compliance and orientation to the therapeutic regimen.

I will be nice to students, when I'm a staff RN. Oh yes.

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