I arrived on the ward at 7:30 ready to begin a 12-hour shift. After receiving handover, my mentor assigned me the job of bathing Mr B with the help of a healthcare assistant. Mr B has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a progressive disease of the nervous system with rapid deterioration due to spongiform encephalopathy. He is not expected to live to Christmas, even though he is only 19 years old. He is mentally aware of what is going on but is physically unable to demonstrate activities of daily living, including eating and drinking, has limited communication skills and is doubly incontinent. He is unsafe on his feet so mobilises with a wheelchair.
I approached Mr B’s bed and asked his consent to take him for a bath. While the bath was running we began helping him to undress. He looked rather nervous. At the thought of myself being in his position, being the same age as him, I began to feel embarrassed too. I thought that I could not possibly be a professional individual if I let my embarrassment and sympathy get in the way of my nursing care.
We assisted Mr B into the bath and started his wash. I knew he was uncomfortable and wanted to be able to wash himself, but was unable to do so. I was finding it difficult to look him in the eye, especially when it came to washing his genitalia. I tried to ease this by making conversation, but in a way this made matters worse.
After the bath we dried Mr B, dressed him and returned him in the wheelchair to bed. To the healthcare assistant it was another job done, but the feelings I had afterwards, as I am sure was the case with Mr B, stayed with me for some time.
This reflective account provides a good description of the nurse’s feelings but it does not go much beyond that. What additional information is needed to develop it?