Engaging With Vulnerable People

In this essay I will discuss the concepts of vulnerability and speculate on possible reasons why the patient in the scenario I have chosen is vulnerable.  I will explore ways in which I can demonstrate and develop professional values according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code of conduct and consider ways in which I can maintain the patient’s dignity and empower her.  “vulnerability is not a license for the nurse to rescue; it is rather an opportunity to encourage growth.”  (deChesnay and Anderson 2008:21).   I will then discuss how I can promote anti-discriminatory practice and finally I will reflect on what I have learned from undertaking this assignment.

Vulnerability has been defined as:

“susceptibility to physical or emotional injury susceptibility to attack, open to censure or criticism; assailable, liable to succumb, as to persuasion or temptation” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000 :1, as cited in deChesnay and Anderson 2008:16 )

The above definition of vulnerability could apply to most people at some point in their lifetime.  According to Pritchard (2001), there are many reasons why people become vulnerable.  People respond to situations such as illness, bereavement and stress differently, because they are unique individuals. However, vulnerability can also apply to groups, due to factors  that include: race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, drug addiction, disabilities, infirmity and age. These groups may also experience inequalities in health based on their socio-economic status.  Although these groups can be classed as high-risk, individuals that belong to these groups may not be vulnerable. It may depend on the circumstances and the environment which they reside or encounter (Burbank 2006). For example a homosexual person living in Soho, London may not experience homophobia because it has a large gay community. However if he went to an inner city area he could experience verbal and physical abuse, because the cultural and religious practices in that area may not accept homosexual people. Of course this is not acceptable and is illegal, but it does still happen.  A survey was conducted by the gay rights charity Stonewall and it was discovered that one in five gay people suffer homophobic attacks (Carvel 2008).

However, being vulnerable does not always equate to a negative implication. According to deChesnay and Anderson (2008), being vulnerable can be a positive inference that enhances evolution and change. Consequently vulnerable people can be supported to become interdependent and encouraged to be autonomous.

The Department of Health (2000) definition of a vulnerable adult is :

“Who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.”

Even though this definition is specifically for a vulnerable adult it can also apply to a child or a young person. If a child or a young person has a disability or illness, they could be in need of community care. Young people and children can be susceptible to exploitation, because they are not always able to protect themselves.

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The patient in Case Study 2 – is vulnerable because depending on the severity of her condition (cerebral palsy) it may render her totally dependent on her family and care-workers for her entire life.  She is an adolescent and could be experiencing puberty and be unsure of what is happening to her body. She could be confined to a wheelchair and have mobility issues.  Having a learning disability could also impede her communication skills and prevent her participating in decisions concerning her treatment and care. She is also vulnerable to neglect, as she may not be able to relay her ...

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