Supporting blind and partially sighted patients during hospital stays- the role of family nursing by Eamonn Dunne Partnerships and Projects at Development Manager at Thomas Pocklington Trust. A charity primarily staffed by blind and partially sighted people and dedicated to improving the lives of those with sight loss.

There are 2 million people in the UK living with  sight loss . This number is estimated to reach 4 million by 2050. People with sight loss will have other conditions that lead to stays in hospital, so what part can family nurses play in making the experience as pleasant as possible for blind and partially sighted people.

It all starts when a patient is admitted. Their care record should flag that they have a visual impairment and what reasonable adjustments  they may require, however this cannot be relied on, so it’s best to check. 80% of people with sight-loss are over the age of 65, so for older patients, it’s far more likely.

To get an idea of what it’s like for someone who is visually impaired, you can imagine that you have been placed in an unfamiliar building and you can’t see anything’ what support do you think you would need to get around and how would you interact with people and your surroundings?

It is important that you support patients by telling them where anything they may need is located. Orientation of the ward and location of toilets etc is essential, but you may need to guide  people. Menus should be available in large print, braille, or read out loud if necessary. Whenever you are at the patient’s bedside ensure they know you are there and always say who you are. This includes everyone who maybe present if a doctor is doing a ward round. If you are putting something down on the patients table or bedside cabinet always tell them. Always fully explain any procedure you are about to carry out on them.

Another useful tip is to make sure that if they wear glasses, they have them with them in the event they move ward or are taken for a scan.

Family nurses can also help blind and partially sighted people with emotional support. Not being able to see what’s going on can make the hospital experience more stressful and frightening. They can also help patients with personal care tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Additionally, family nurses can help patients with medication management and monitoring.

Given the additional challenges for a visually impaired patient, being flexible on visiting for family and friends is helpful. They can assist with interacting with other patients by making introductions and helping navigate the ward.

One final tip is that it’s always worth checking that a visually impaired patient is getting the right support with their eye condition, especially if something has changed. Knowing how to contact Ophthalmology colleagues within your hospital service will enable quicker referrals, in the event that it becomes necessary.




X (twitter): @eamonnjdunne

Some useful resources: