A vulnerable patient is defined as an individual who has an increased risk of poor health outcomes due to exposure to one or more social determinants of health.
Although the healthcare system is designed to meet the needs of all patients, there is a growing recognition that certain groups of patients are more vulnerable and need special attention.
How nurses can get Involved and help
As a nurse, it is essential to be aware of your patients’ vulnerability. Vulnerable patients are at an increased risk of poor health outcomes and can often be overlooked in the healthcare system.
To be in a better position to address these critical issues, it is vital to advance your nursing education or pursue a career in nursing if you are working in a different field and wish to transition. Enrolling in accelerated nursing programs such as the University of Indianapolis ABSN program will help you fast-track into a nursing career in the shortest time possible, even for non-nursing degree holders.
Let’s explore the four key types of vulnerabilities patients face and how nurses can help.
Physical vulnerability is one of the biggest issues faced by patients in the healthcare system. A physical impairment can often mean a patient does not receive appropriate medical care. These are the most visible types of vulnerabilities experienced by patients and nurses, and they include:
- Poor vision
- Hard of hearing
- Intellectual disabilities
- Mobility impairment
It is important that nurses do not neglect physical vulnerabilities when caring for patients, particularly when it comes to providing postoperative care and ensuring timely access to medical services and treatment.
It is becoming increasingly clear that emotional well-being is closely linked to physical well-being, and emotional vulnerabilities are becoming a growing concern in the healthcare system.
Emotional vulnerabilities include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
Isolation is one of the biggest social vulnerabilities faced by patients in the healthcare system. Patients who are socially vulnerable are also likely to be economically vulnerable, which means that they can suffer from poor access to healthcare services and medical treatment. They may also have limited access to transportation and other resources. These patients may be suffering from a disease that is stigmatized in the community, which can lead them to feel isolated and lacking in support.
Economic vulnerabilities are the least visible but are nevertheless very important to address. These individuals may have difficulty accessing healthcare services due to a lack of medical insurance or the high cost of healthcare. Economic vulnerabilities are often caused by the inability to meet basic expenses such as housing, transportation, food and childcare.
What can nurses do to help?
As a nurse, you can help vulnerable patients by providing them with high-quality post-operative care. Collaboration and teamwork are important for helping vulnerable patients. When considering a patient’s vulnerability, it is important to approach the healthcare system with an open mind and be willing to make adjustments.
The bottom line
Nurses can play a critical role in ensuring vulnerable patients receive the care they need. Nurses should always remain aware of the underlying issues that lead to a patient’s vulnerability and adapt their practice accordingly.