Caring for Patients with SCI

Nurses General Nursing


As a new nurse in a Neuro-ICU, I find it difficult to care for patients with quadriplegia, paraplegia, or any other debilitating disorder that has left someone unable to function (especially if it's a younger patient). I feel it's hard to gain their trust, and my newness doesn't help matters. Does anyone have any suggestions that might help to improve my interactions with such patients? THANKS.

Look past the equipment and find the person. Silence can be golden.

Body language tells alot about you. Study Study Study....get a good text book about your new area....find a mentor you trust.

Good luck!


My experience has been to give most of the decision making to them so they feel like they have some control in their life. They have practically no independence and then to have a nurse come in and say "I'm going to do this and that" must be the last straw for them.

Most of the young ones are usually there because of an accident - something totally unexpected. So I try and give them something they can expect - possible rehabilitation of some sort, what they need to request from their nurses if they don't see it getting done i.e being turned to avoid pressure sores, etc.

All but one of the quad/para's I have taken care of have been very young and extremely depressed/apathetic. This is life changing and will take a lot of time to get through for most.

You will find ways to assist the patient in his or her physical needs as a result of listening to what is needed, and guided by your nursing textbook knowledge. Also, engage in conversations about what interests he or she. The paraplegic's life has drastically changed and physical activities are no longer the main focus in life. For example, if the patient loved playing basketball before the accident, maybe coaching basketball is now a possibility. Or writing stories. You will discover an aspect of the strength and beauty of the human spirit when you work with these people. I did.

This isn't my area of practice, BUT, one of my best friends from high school recently had a mishap at work that left him a para. In watching his rehab efforts, I would say that one VERY important thing is to NOT pity them. Work WITH them, not FOR them. These young guys are still the same INSIDE as they were pre-accident, and it is a HUGE blow to the ego when they can no longer be in complete control, and have some nurse do things for them. Work with the families, too. My friend's wife went through a lot of frustration needlessly, because she felt she had to fight for information about his condition all the time.

One other thing...These people know how they feel, and what needs to be done for them, and what they want to do for themselves. Ask. Study. Treat them like people, not "the MVA in room 213"...

Just a suggestion...

Good luck.

Heather smile.gif

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