During patient experience week (23-26 March), I popped in to the very popular empathy zone, where you could experience some of the challenges facing our patients and people living in our community. For example you could put on a pair of glasses, which reduce sight, use a wheelchair or crutches, try putting on a hospital gown with an arm splint and attempt simple tasks, like threading beads, while wearing padded gloves.
I tried on a pair of goggles, to see what it would be like for a person who has glaucoma – a condition that can cause blindness if left untreated. What I experienced were blind spots in my vision, making it very hard to see. As I banged into chairs and tables, I kept thinking how would I cope with deteriorating vision on a day-to-day basis.
So what did other people experience?
“I tried out the tilt table, which is used by the physiotherapists to help spinal and stroke patients go from lying flat to an up-right position. As I was being strapped in, two things struck me. Firstly, if you are lying on your back for long periods of time, you become very familiar with the ceiling. Wouldn’t it be great to have something interesting to look at! Secondly I was putting my safety and trust in the hands of a physiotherapist I had just met. Being reassured and treated with compassion made me feel cared for and safe. Overall it was very humbling to experience what our patients go through.” Denise Kivell, Director of Nursing.
“Have you ever tried to trace a star looking through a mirror? It’s not as easy as it sounds. When you hold up an image in front of a mirror, it is reversed. However your brain still thinks it is looking at the real image, not the flipped image. That’s why you make mistakes. If you keep practicing, your brain will learn that you are looking at the flipped image and you will get better. This was a great exercise to experience what people with perceptual difficulties must go through”. Martin Chadwick, Director Allied Health.
“I tried to put on a pair of pyjamas with my arm in a sling. Not only was it difficult it was incredibly frustrating. For a brief minute I experienced what our patients must feel. I’ll be more mindful in the future.” Student Nurse
I believe the empathy zone is something all staff should experience, to feel what it’s like to walk in a patient’s shoes, for a short period of time. I gained a lot from the experience and have a better understanding and awareness of how we can better support people who come under our care. This includes treating people with care, patience, compassion and dignity.
Maybe we should run empathy sessions on a regular basis. What do you think?
Have a safe and happy Easter.
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