Understanding Patient Experiences
Published: 30 June 2018
Published: 30 June 2018
In order to deliver effective nursing care, it's essential that empathy and understanding of the patient experience occurs.
The experience of the nurse and that of the patient differ for the same event. Taking a patient's blood pressure and having your blood pressure taken are two very different experiences.
The nurse is likely focused on correctly aligning the cuff marker and making sure that they are listening carefully to accurately identify the systolic blood pressure. However, the patient may be thinking, 'I hope nothing is wrong', 'I hate having my blood pressure taken as the cuff hurts my arm', or 'that nurse has cold hands'.
If you're a nurse that has had to be a ‘patient’ before, then the experience could be dramatically different again.
The nurse might think, ‘I trust healthcare, so I am well looked after and I don’t need to worry.' Or, they might think, 'Oh no, my blood pressure is high, that isn’t good. What if something's wrong?'
Similarly, the nurse receiving care may feel particularly concerned if they note that the healthcare staff are not being as safe or professional as the nurse feels they should be.
For example, how would you feel if the nurse taking care of you didn't perform correct hand hygiene practices before touching you, or your equipment? What if they didn’t introduce themselves to you before attempting to deliver care to you?
On the other hand, how would you feel if you observed healthcare staff delivering amazing care to you, a family member, a friend or another person?
Remember a time where you were proud of a healthcare team and their care delivery. Perhaps it was the way a nurse was able to calmly and effectively reminisce with a patient who had dementia, and you saw the patient engage meaningfully and happily for the first time that day. Or, perhaps you were proud of yourself, after a patient and their family members smiled and thanked you for following up on a concern they had.
Evidently, there is a vast and ever-changing array of experiences occurring within the healthcare setting. It can be hypothesised that the person’s interpretation of specific events will dictate whether they feel the ‘experience’ was a positive one or a negative one.
Price et al. (2014) explain that:
‘Research indicates that better patient care experiences are associated with higher levels of adherence to recommended prevention and treatment processes, better clinical outcomes, better patient safety within hospitals, and less health care utilisation.’
Interestingly, a prospective study found that some factors related to patient experiences had an effect on patients' self-management (Kenning et al. 2015).
For example, ‘hassles’ in healthcare were patient experiences that affected ‘self-monitoring and insight’ (Kenning et al. 2015). It was also shown that ‘illness perceptions’ regarding ‘consequences of individual conditions’ could influence self-management (Kenning et al. 2015).
This suggests that health professionals need to be aware that the way they present ‘illness’ and ‘consequences of conditions’ to patients has the potential to affect the patient's experience and their self-management activities. Additionally, healthcare staff may need to consider how difficult the healthcare experience has been for the patient, in order to understand if their ‘self-monitoring and insight’ may be affected.
Egerod et al. (2015) completed a ‘meta-synthesis of Nordic studies’ that suggested intensive care contexts can be linked to negative patient experiences such as ‘suffering’.
It was proposed that ‘life-threatening illness’ leads to patients having to choose between ‘life or death’ and that ‘caring nurses and family members’ are therefore necessary to support the person’s ‘transition to life’ (Egerod et al. 2015). Thereby, it appears that without considerate or empathetic staff and family members, the patient experience may decline.
Olding et al. (2015) expressed that there is an increased ‘call’ for the inclusion of family members, but there remains a gap in the literature on this topic. They also highlight that more research is needed in regards to the socio-cultural factors related to ‘patient and family involvement’ in intensive care or critical care environments.
Despite Price et al. (2014) highlighting that the collection of patient data is important to understand patient experiences of healthcare, an analysis by Coulter et al. (2014) reinforces that health facilities must not only collect data but actually use the data for quality improvement plans to improve patient care and experiences.
Fortenberry and McGoldrick (2015) propose that effective internal marketing in health settings could lead to improvements in patient experiences and workplace culture, which again would lead back to potential improvements in patient experiences of healthcare.