The care of a patient’s mouth forms an important component of assisting hygiene needs and yet is a nursing skill which is not always afforded the attention it fully deserves (Evans, 2001).
Within this essay, I will reflect on an experience gained whilst giving and receiving oral care on a placement simulation using a reflective model.
By utilising this model I hope to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding in relation to this skill as well as identifying areas with scope for learning. Reflection is the process of reviewing an experience in order to describe analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice (Reid 1993).
Gibbs (1988) model of reflection will be used as a framework, because it focuses on different aspects of an experience and allows revisiting the event fully. By contemplating it thus, I am able to appreciate it and guided to where future development work is required.
I was part of a placement simulation group which went to the multi-skills laboratory to practice delivering and receiving oral hygiene. I was assigned a colleague to brush his teeth using a toothbrush and paste. I put on gloves to prevent contamination (NICE 2003). Seeking his consent, I undertook a brief visual assessment of his mouth’s health. I then put him in a comfortable position so that he could tolerate the wash. Thereafter, I cleaned all-round the mouth, gums and tongue. I finished off by helping him to rinse his mouth with mouthwash. I treated my partner as though he was physically unable to hold the brush himself to scrub his own teeth, but he was able to communicate with me and was able to assist me in terms of spitting and gargling with water at the end of the procedure.
When first informed that I was expected to undertake this task I felt anxious and concerned. I was aware that I had not brushed anyone’s teeth outside of my family before and that the mouth is an intimate and personal part of the body which is not usually exposed to anyone other than myself or the dentist. I was concerned about how my partner (whom I did not know well at that stage) would react to me examining his mouth. Writers have described such intimate physical assessments as creating a potentially intrusive situation (Lewis 2006, Sturdy 2007) which might cause the patient to feel uncertain and inadequate. I was also concerned that my own anxiety was shared by my partner who also appeared embarrassed and awkward at the time.
This anxiety was increased when during the procedure my partner began to cough as though distressed. This caused me to feel hesitant about continuing- a situation recognised by Millon (1994) as a common response for carers to such an experience, although I persevered with his cooperation. When the task was completed I felt comfortable with my performance overall.
What was good about the experience was that, despite being aware that this role is often delegated to health care assistants (Kelly et al 2010),...