In a hospital environment, everything seems to be hundred times more stressful and unpredictable than normal life. Everything is constantly changing. Consistency is an on-going challenge for those in institutional care. Many times, it seems the perfect nurse that sincerely cared about our loved ones just disappears and in come another, many times, one who just seems to not want to be there. There will be a doctor on call for a few days, then off for a few weeks. While it may seem like a struggle to have so much unpredictability, there are a few things that you can do to try to maintain some structure creating less stress for both the patient and family members. Hopefully the tips below can help you find comfort if you end up in this situation.

Personality Page

If the patient is nonverbal, make a list of likes and dislikes that the nursing staff can refer to get a better idea of how to best care for the patient. (see example at end of post)


Post pictures of family, friend and the patient up around the room so the nurse can get a better sense of their personality and goals for recovery.

Photos and cards!

Medication List

Keep a list of all of the medications that the patient is on so that you will be aware of any changes. Ask the nurse to keep you informed if a medicine changes at all or when new ones are added to the mix. Sometime new drugs are slipped in and you may or may not want your loved one on that particular medicine. Always research medication side effects thoroughly.

Preferences List

Keep note of any specific instructions the nurse may not know about the patient. Do they like to lie on a certain side? Need to be sat up or placed in wheel chair a few times a day? Do they watch TV or not? Like a certain type of music to be playing? These are all things that may have not been transferred in the shift report and are worth talking to the nurse about.

How They Communicate

Nonverbal and even verbal patients all have different ways of expressing themselves. This may be facial grimaces or hand signals in the nonverbal. Even an elevated heart rate can sometimes mean they need to be changed or moved, and new nurses will not have as much experience with the patients distress signals as the main caregiver. It helps both parties if they are able to understand each other!

New Info

Let the nurse know about any new information or activity that might have changed since they were with the patient last. If there is an improvement, they will be able to encourage it more if they know about it!

Feeding and Supplement Schedule

If your loved one has a really specific food schedule, it is important to communicate this and make sure it got accurately passed down in the shift notes. Also, it is good to keep a dialogue about how the patient responded to feedings and supplements.

Here is a copy of the Personality Page we made for Ryan. It is posted on his door and also on a wall in his room for visitors and nurses to see!

Top 8 things everyone might want to know about me. (Ryan)

1. It so important that my brief is checked frequently and often - if my face looks upset - I might be wet!
  1. My hearing is great.... I hear every thing that is said : )

2 It takes time for me to respond (30 seconds seems incredibly long to most people) but with time I can do what you ask

3 I like a dark room for resting and wearing my eye shades when sleeping. I know how to take it off.

4 I never watch TV and enjoy quiet"thinking time" -

  1. If I am sleeping, please keep your voices down so I can stay asleep

  2. I love it when people introduce themselves, and talk to me about what they are doing with and for me.

  3. I like to do things with my hands. If you see me rubbing my face and I don't have a wet brief, please give me something to manipulate (ie toy, etc)

Do you have any other tips that were helpful for you? Leave your tips in the comments! -Megan Concannon