A Young Person’s Experience of Critical Illness
Natalie May & Roisin McNamara discuss a young person’s experience of critical illness.
They are joined by Ema, an 11-year-old girl who had a scary time when she was diagnosed with tracheitis. Experiencing critical illness is scary for anyone. However, when you are a young person, this terrifying experience is amplified.
Natalie and Roisin tell us what we as clinicians can do or think about differently to provide a better patient experience.
Although she is young, Ema provides some salient points about what doctors and nurses do well and what they can do better.
The main take away boils down to clear communication. Medical professionals often think they are explaining things thoroughly. However, the words they use, and the speed of the delivery of those words, leaves a patient feeling confused and scared.
On top of that, a patient’s experience of critical illness leaves them exhausted, in pain and unable to effectively communicate.
Bringing one’s awareness to this can assist when we are deciding how and when to discuss the ongoing treatment.
Ema’s mother also provides insights into the experience of the family. The broad themes include the feelings of isolation, fear, and overwhelming concern.
Encouragingly, there are simple things that clinicians can do to alleviate these feelings. Whilst the fear and concern for one’s young child will never abate, simply taking the time to listen to all worries and ensuring understanding can go a long way towards improving the experience for both the patient and their family.
Similarly, ongoing communication regarding the tests, procedures, and treatments that are planned to be undertaken is highlighted as critical in eliciting the support and buy in of the family.
Critical illness in a young person will never be easy for the patient or their families. Listen in to this discussion to discover how to make it more bearable.
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Natalie trained in Emergency Medicine and subspecialty Paediatric EM in the UK, where she worked for just over a year as a consultant before moving to Sydney where she now works as locally as a Specialist in Emergency Medicine, as a Specialist in Prehospital and Retrieval Medicine with Sydney HEMS and occasionally in Neonatal and Pediatric Transport (NETS).
She has a long-held interest in medical education and holds a postgraduate certificate in workplace-based medical education. Natalie is a proud contributor to the St. Emlyn’s blog and podcast.