Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Such patience for patients is amazing"

In the Telegraph: Trust me, I'm a junior doctor.
"Mr Berridge suffers from Korsakoff's, which sounds, ironically, like a cheap Russian vodka but is a syndrome of irreversible brain damage caused by alcohol excess. It is characterised by short-term memory loss and confabulation, where the sufferer fills in the gaps in his memory with fictional explanations.

Mr Berridge was found confused and wandering the streets a few months ago, and was brought into hospital. He remembers that he has savings, but not that his social worker opened a bank account for him, and that his money is safe. Because he can't remember, his mind becomes creative and he imagines that it's been stolen. And no matter how many times you explain, within a few minutes he's forgotten again.

Anyone needing a reminder of the evils of drink should spend a day on my ward, having to explain, repeatedly, to Mr Berridge what has happened to his money. I can last only a few minutes, and so I have the greatest admiration for the nursing staff.

Psychiatric nurses are a special breed. While they might not have the technical expertise of nurses working on the medical and surgical wards, their skills are equally specialist. Regardless of the form of mental illness, nothing seems to faze them. They are calm in the most extreme situations. They make sure that everyone is comfortable, they offer support and help, and have awe-inspiring patience.

With Mr Berridge, whose short-term memory is only two or three minutes, this means non-stop work, all day, every day. I honestly don't know how they do it...
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