I was surprised and pleased that my post ‘Don’t call me mum’ resonated with many parents. I’ve been reflecting again on my experiences when my son Ethan was seriously ill with sepsis. Whilst it was an incredibly difficult time there are two members of staff I remember with particular fondness and gratitude.
First was Joan a health care assistant (who was approaching retirement). I remember her kindness, it was both firm and gentle. Instead of pushing the ‘breastfeeding’ party line she bottle fed Ethan in the middle of the night. So I, an exhausted on the edge new twin mum, could get more than 3 hrs sleep. I felt as though that nights sleep was life saving. She extended her care for my son to me.
There was also Dr O’Connor the paediatric registrar. She never lectured me on my googling of strep B sepsis. She understood my need to try to understand. She went the extra mile as many NHS staff do. On a number of occasions she came to Ethan’s cot-side after a long shift to answer my questions. Her efforts to get to the bottom of Ethan’s double infection were clear.
What was special about these two staff was, they heard more than my words. Joan listened to me as I said ‘I am worried about Ethan and who will take care of him in the night’. She heard ‘I am exhausted and close to breaking’ She’d discovered what I was not even admitting to myself. Dr O’Connor listened to my myriad of questions and heard a mum who needed some sense of control.
I love this quote from Stephen Covey:
I will be forever grateful that Joan and Dr O’Connor listened to understand. Whilst listening like this is not easy I am sure the positive impacts far outweigh the cost. I have found as a clinician my efforts to truly listen are nearly always rewarded.
In Don’t call me mum I gave these 3 keys for person centred practice:
Recognise parents individuality, communicate at a level appropriate for them and remember their preferred name.
Recognise parents are the experts in their child, use their experience and knowledge to jointly provide the best interventions.
Remember the child has a wider family, your interventions may affect grandparents and siblings too.
These 3 keys need prepending with a vital first step: