To follow on from the Reflections of Aged Care and in the interest of continued Reflection so I can Maintain the Rage the following are lessons that I have learnt while on my Community Placement for my Diploma of Nursing. The lessons and revelations that I came to during my placement were; Community Care is not a lesser form of care, Discharge from Hospital doesn’t mean Healthy, Funding is a speed bump not a road block, D is for Danger, a little care goes a long way.
Community Care is not a lesser form of Care
After spending a week in the community setting I very quickly realised, it’s not a lesser form of care, less equiped or less skilled, if anything I found the opposite. The organisation I placed with had two Nurse Practitioners on staff, a myriad of Clinical Nurses and Registered nurses, and an Assistant in Nursing who ran the stores and supply chain. This was a well oiled machine of Healthcare. They were all completely professional, top of their game and the most caring people I think I have met on my journey so far. They work diligently to provide the best level of care they can, and if they can’t, they find someone who can. They didn’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘Too Hard’. It completely changed my perception of what community care was, which I will admit, wasn’t a very positive one. I alway pictured nurses with a bag of observation equipment, some simple dressings and a box of drugs going from clients home to clients home dealing with the Elderly and Disabled because they couldn’t make it to the General Practitioners. I could not have been more wrong. This particular organisation ran a clinic in the CBD, an after hours service, visits to the aged care facilities, at home palliation, home delivered clinical services and intra venous antibiotic therapy in the home. Nothing short of a real Hospital in the Home.
Discharge from Hospital doesn’t mean Healthy
I also learnt that just because someone is released from Hospital that doesn’t mean they are on the mend, they are simply stable and well enough to be at home. This is the sad state of affairs in most countries, where the need for hospital beds is pushing quicker and quicker turn around times. Hospital beds are also becoming cost prohibitive, with the average night stay in Australia costing over $1,800. This has spurred the community health sector into overdrive, the need for advanced clinical skills in the home and community environment is at an all time high. With more people being discharged early, or avoiding hospital and seeking alternative arrangements. That’s were services like the one I conducted my placement with really come to the forefront. We as citizens of our respective countries need to be aware of this, as fathers, mothers, brother, sisters, and children of someone who may be discharged from hospital one day, we need to be aware of what services are available, and what help can be sought. We also need to be aware that the instructions that are given to you on discharge are there to, hopefully, keep you out of hospital. So do yourselves a big favour, especially those who are heading into healthcare, and learn what community services are available and what they can do for your patients on discharge.
Funding is a Speed Bump not a Road Block
John Kander wrote a song for for his 1966 production Cabaret which said “Money makes the World go Round”, and unfortunately it does. Healthcare is driven by two things, firstly patients needs, secondly how much those needs cost. Community care in Australia is funded either by the Government or Private Enterprise, and the private enterprises are usually not for profit organisations who receive funding from the Government. These agencies receive a certain amount of money per patient depending on complexity, time needed and a swag of other criteria. These criteria then govern how much the organisation receives to run that service, and what boundaries the organisation has to stay in, so as not to step outside of their appointed jurisdiction. This however does not stop the services from providing the care to the patient. What tends to occur is the service will refer to another community care organisation that has the jurisdiction to cover what is required. As far as the patient is concerned they still receive the right treatment, and the healthcare system get a smiley face sticker for doing the right thing, its a win win.
D is for Danger
As anyone who has completed their first aid certificate in the past can tell you there is the the pneumonic of DRS ABCD, where the first D is for Danger, to both the casualty and yourself, community care is a lot like that. Before entering someones home for the first time a risk assessment is conducted, this covers everything from number of people in the house, to pets, to access to the inside, to lighting, everything. The community nurse also has the right to arrive at a patients home and not enter and simply drive away if they believe there is a real threat to their safety, like the 75 kg hungry Rottweiler thats sitting in the front yard. This is paramount for the community nurse, because if they enter the property and the Rottweiler decides they’re lunch, you now have two patients at the residence not one. This lesson can be carried into the acute setting as well, if you have a belligerent patient who won’t settle and is throwing bed pans, grab a mate and tackle the room (not the patient) together.
A little care goes a Long way
The short amount of time you get with each patient in their home doesn’t leave much room for error, but by providing a little care to the patients in the time you do see them can lift their spirits and help with recovery. Human contact, social activity and conversation are all great ways of battling depression, anxiety and promote good health. The simple act of being kind and caring during your visit could be enough for a patient to see the light at the end of the tunnel and really focus on their recovery, not their condition. Even in community palliation, the difference between openly and compassionately communicating with the client, and always walking on egg shells, can be the difference between what is considered a good death and a bad one. So in all walks of your health care life, care a little, share a little and take the time to be with the patient, not the task.
My community care placement has taught me a lot, I made a swag of new professional contacts, saw first hand what the services can do for patients, learnt a lot of clinical skills and developed the ones I already had. Do you have a lesson learnt from one of your placements? Do you, or have you had a friend or family member receive care from a community health organisation? If so comment below, if you would like to share your story head to our Connect page so we can share it with everyone. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive email updates of new articles.