Friday, December 20, 2013
The Bath Ritual
Yesterday we talked about how patients' baths are the barometer for how our shift is going. After writing about it, I haven't been able to get it off my mind. The bath seems like the absolute most basic of nursing care and, certainly, a task that has been delegated to others as the role of nurses has evolved and expanded. But it's still at the heart of nursing care.
If the bath is our barometer of success, it is also the barometer of care as perceived by the patient. There's a significant amount of literature out there about how patients' bathing is connected to their satisfaction with care. Baths matter to patients.
A bath is also the one single thing that can impact a patient the most. Have you ever been the nurse who has gotten to put a patient recovering after a very bad illness or injury into the shower for the first time since getting sick? Truly, it is almost a religious experience. I, myself, can remember vividly how I felt about getting to take a shower after abdominal surgery many years ago, even after the other details have faded away.
Nurses all have their own method for bathing patients, even though we basically learned the same method in our initial nursing program (I think bathing came before even taking vital signs, didn't it?). We know the perfect number of towels and how we like to place them, where the soap should go, and in what pattern the other bathing supplies should be laid out.
It's interesting that this one aspect of nursing care goes back to what is considered the beginning of modern nursing, the influence of Florence Nightingale's first linking of cleanliness to health in the 1800's, and is still such a big part of the care we give in 2013.
By the way, how much happier would patients AND nurses be if their baths looked like the one pictured above?