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The importance of listening
Aug 06, 2019, By: Megan Wood

The article:

Ostaszkiewicz, J., Lakhan, P., O’Connell, B., & Hawkins, M. (2015). Ongoing challenges responding to behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementiaInternational Nursing Review: Ageing and Aged Care, 62, 506–516.

These authors completed a qualitative exploratory and descriptive study focused on the ongoing challenges of responding to residents with dementia in long-term care facilities, specifically, those who have behavioural and psychological symptoms of the disease. As a senior nursing consultant, I found this work to be engaging and informative.

The research aim was to review nurses’ experiences caring for residents with dementia and the strategies that they use to do so. The many challenging behaviours seen in residents with dementia include wandering, hoarding, swearing, paranoia, and aggression. This study provides readers with tools for managing or mitigating such behaviours, and describes the struggles of staff who feel undervalued.

I believe that this study would be useful to all nurses, not just those who work in long-term care facilities or with residents who have dementia. The researchers’ interviews with nurses explored the many factors that contribute to quality of care, such as the importance of a supportive management team, the challenges that come with adapting to change, and the unfortunate normalization of workplace injuries. These themes are recognizable to nurses who work with many demographics and patients who might be considered challenging.

Getting to know residents, becoming familiar with their cues or triggers, and managing the environment are important strategies for nurses in all settings: simply put, we need to take the time to know the people we are caring for.

The study also describes nurses’ persistent feeling of being undervalued, particularly when their opinions are discounted and their decisions are undermined, such as having to defend their clinical decisions during their shift. New nurses, senior nurses, and all health care professionals can take lessons from these authors in how to ensure that staff feel heard and supported, and can bring realistic expectations to their day-to-day work.

Nurses in all health care settings face similar challenges. As one nurse in the study stated, “they (managers) just come in for two minutes and they’re telling you what to do. … Be here for eight hours and realize what we’re going through.” This observation resonated with me as a reader and as a nurse, because we should be mindful of all professions who contribute to people’s quality of care. We need to show our staff, co-workers, and especially our residents that we value and appreciate their experience. We need to listen.

The need to listen was the biggest message I took from this study. It is important to hear our fellow nurses, no matter what population they serve. If we do not hear and support one another, we cannot hear or support our residents.

Megan Wood completed her BScN at the University of Prince Edward Island and is currently completing a Masters in Nursing with Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is a Registered Nurse in Yellowknife, NT where she works as a nursing consultant. She is passionate about nursing leadership and healthy aging throughout the lifespan.