Staff on Ward 2 of Walsall Manor Hospital have introduced “What Matters To Me” boards to help build better communication with their patients and support them in partnership with their families and carers.
They came up with the idea at a nursing strategy event held in November where the guest speaker was Tommy Whitelaw, Dementia Carers Voices-UK project lead, who spoke about his experience of caring for his beloved mother who had dementia. He urged nursing staff to embrace the idea of “What Matters To Me” rather than “What’s the matter with you?”
Everyone in attendance made a pledge to make a difference and Ward 2 staff decided to implement the boards.
There are no boundaries or limitations to what can be written on these boards. Some patients choose to let staff know their favourite meals, others choose to display who the important people are in their lives. Patients may detail their past occupations, favourite films, music, or how they like to take their medication.
Sometimes, from a conversation with a patient and their relative, staff may gain clues for the “What Matters To Me” board for the meaning of a particular mannerism/non-verbal communication. Tommy Whitelaw gave the example of when his mother Joan was blowing kisses: this was her way of saying she was thirsty and needed a drink.
This is a team effort across the ward and staff said: “This has enabled patients and staff to work through barriers of communication that uniforms and job titles unintentionally put up. It has been a pleasure to hear patients, staff, relatives and visitors discuss their favourite football teams, hobbies and holidays. It matters that patients and relatives are much more likely to know our staff by first name and have a greater trust in us as people (as well as professionals) , it matters that the patient has the chance to let us know the most trivial of details about them that might make such a big difference in the care we are able to give.
“It has also been fantastic for people to share laughter, banter….and also for patients and relatives to share the more serious side of their emotions, to help identify what can make the patient feel distressed and what we can do to try to help with this.
“We have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from patients, families and fellow healthcare professionals and have heard from other trusts across the country that plan to do something similar. The boards have definitely brought a friendlier and brighter atmosphere to the ward.”
Patient Derrick Griffin, aged 74, said the boards really helped him to remember things and “it’s nice talking to staff about things I like.”
Karen Dunderdale, Walsall Healthcare’s Director of Nursing, added: “This is such a simple yet effective approach that is really creating a buzz. Well done to Ward 2 staff for making such a pledge that embraces our trust values of Respect, Compassion, Professionalism and Teamwork and truly puts our patients at the heart of everything we do.”