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Researcher profile: Dr. Genevieve Thompson

Dignity and Care: Finding the Respectful Balance

May 10, 2017 — 

Bathing, dressing, brushing your teeth. They’re simple activities of daily life, and it’s easy to take for granted that you’ll always be able to do those things for yourself. The fact is, there may be a time when you can’t.

Dr. Genevieve Thompson, associate professor and researcher at the College of Nursing, is exploring what it’s like to experience intimate personal care and how health-care aides and nurses can help patients keep their sense of dignity.

She says it can be hard to allow another person to do things for you that are personal in nature, even in the best of circumstances. “But people get really upset when they feel certain kinds of care aren’t done sensitively,” says Thompson. “We sometimes joke around as nurses or healthcare aides when we’re providing personal care—it’s a way to deflect any discomfort in the situation or our own nervousness. Sometimes that goes well and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Quality care is also influenced by time restraints, with more and more being asked of caregivers each day. “In some cases there’s not enough staff; care gets rushed.” For example, Thompson points out that an aide may be asked to bathe as many as 15 patients in one day. “But you always have to remember, it’s not just a task to be done,” says Thompson. “We need to educate people around the psychological impact this kind of care has—it can devastate patients. And it doesn’t have to.”

Thompson is also exploring how quality of care affects families and care-providing staff members. “Families worry about the kind of care their family members are receiving in hospitals and care homes,” says Thompson. “At the same time, staff needs to feel valued in the care that they provide to their patients and residents. I think it really does come down to how we build relationships with people and the rapport that we have.”

Thompson says exploring the impact of what she describes as “mindful care” has implications far beyond the immediate needs of the patient. “We hope that we can really highlight the ways in which this quality care has profound positive effects on patients,” she says. “We’re supporting physical health, but we also need to be concerned about mental health, feelings of well-being, and spiritual health.”

In the end, Thompson says the ideal is to create a “healthcaring environment” that supports patients, their families, and healthcare workers alike. “We should be attuned to holistic care in these environments, and if we are, I really feel that it will be to the benefit of everyone involved, at all levels.”

Genevieve Thompson, Nursing
Genevieve Thompson, RN, PhD

Associate Professor, College of Nursing

Featured Research:
Excellence in delivering person-centred intimate care: what makes a difference?

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