What Matters to me? by Caroline Doidge and @shazmcgarva

If someone asked you “What matters to you?” how would you answer?

I would answer family, friends, health, to do a good job and to take early retirement!

But what about a child? We all make assumptions with children and if we answered for them our answers would probably resonate Xbox’s, phones, mine craft.

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BUT you would be very surprised by what they do say when given the chance. The answers are captivating and not as you would expect.

The staff in Ward 15, our paediatric ward, have begun asking children ‘what matters to you?’ and encouraging them to display a poster near to/above their bed.

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We noticed themes coming through.

  • Having mummy with me
  • Smiley doctors and nurses
  • Games and toys
  • Getting better
  • Trust
  • Good food
  • TV and DVDs
  • Playroom
  • Friends and family

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But most of all OUR FISH!!!!!

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We also noticed some important and personal issues.

  • ‘ECG machine is very important as it records your heart beat and is helping to fix my funny turns’
  • ‘Important that I know what I am doing when injecting and having decisions explained to me. I am now a diabetic’
  • ‘Miss Hawkins knows where to put my Botox!’
  • ‘Nurses are very helpful when you are embarrassed’
  • ‘Oxygen to help me get better’

These are not just linked to hospital stays – ‘I love to protect our planet.’ And ‘I love to play football’. This was from a girl and I am sure you were sitting thinking this was a typical boy answer!

SO how did this all begin?

Jen Rogers is the paediatric lead nurse for Yorkhill and when she was completing the fellowship for the Scottish Patient Safety Programme she started to think about asking children ‘what matters to you?. This became her improvement project.

WMTM is 3 step approach.

  1. Asking what matters
  2. Listening to what matters
  3. Doing what matters

This is a very easy way to find out about your patient and their wider world and is particularly important in paediatrics with the focus on GIRFEC (Getting it Right For Every Child). It does not require complex grants and funding as all that is required is pens, paper and commitment.

This is not just the ‘fluffy stuff’. It is linked very well to quality, finance and patient and staff experience – a truly person centred approach.

So with this in mind please ask yourself “What do you know about your patients?” and what matters to them.

With all the competing priorities, new initiatives and increasing work load you may be sitting thinking ‘where will we get the time to do this and will it make a difference?’

Rose’s story will answer this for you. Rose needed a nurse to stay with her at all times as she was a lady with dementia. She was agitated and was at high risk of falling. She was not able to verbalise her worries and this made her care challenging and made her anxious. The ward staff asked Rose’s niece to do a ‘what matters to me?’ From this it was evident that it was her rosary beads that mattered to her, seeing them and feeling them.


Shaz 8Being the ever so neat and tidy nurses we are, with HAI inspections and housekeeping to see to, the beads were nowhere to be seen and were tidied away in Roses drawer out of her reach. The nursing staff had no idea and very quickly made sure that Rose always had her beads. The result was astounding. Rose began to settle and soon after she no longer required 1:1 care because her falls risk dramatically reduced. Why? She was not trying to get out the bed to find her rosary.

SO do you know the story behind your patients? Could the ‘fractured femur’ in bed 6 actually miss her grandchildren dearly and want to have their pictures displayed. Did the ‘man in bed 11 with a UTI fight in WW2? What matters to me lets you know more about the person you are caring for. It has no prescriptive nature and gives them the opportunity to display what matters to them in whichever way they like. We need to flip healthcare and change the question from ‘what’s the matter with you? To ‘what matters to you?’

This allows us to gain a much truer understanding of the people we look after and I challenge you all to ask the next person you care for ‘what matters to you?’.

Caroline Doidge is a Play Specialist on Ward 15 DGRI and Sharron Mcgarva is a Staff Nurse and trainee Improvement Advisor for NHS D&G





21 thoughts on “What Matters to me? by Caroline Doidge and @shazmcgarva

  1. Many thanks for this important reminder Caroline and Sharron. I once looked after a gentleman with dementia who needed to sleep with his head at the bottom of the bed so that he could ‘keep look out’ for his pals in the trenches. As soon as we realised this was all that was needed his agitation disappeared. Always look for the person behind the behaviour…..

  2. Thank you for this blog, I think we have come quite a way from describing patients by their condition ot what bed they are in but I believe we still have a way to go towards being truly person centred. Knowing “what matters to me” helps us to know and understand the individual and, you are quite correct, we don’t always hear what we expect; if we were the person in the bed, would we want someone else assuming what we wanted?

  3. A simple question that has such impact. When my daughter had a DVT and PE at 17, and was ready for discharge, her Consultant John Simpson at ERI asked Lindsey ‘What do you want to be able to do,’ All she wanted was to start her college course in 4 days… and he helped us make that happen. Through all the stress and distress that we had gone through (and still had to go through getting her stable on warfrain!) this is my lasting memory of the of that horrfic time. A simple question that allowed Lindz to achieve her outcomes…
    Even although he was Hibee, he was a top guy that understood ‘what matters to me’

    • Its a great blog, well done ladies, the whole team enjoy reading them when looking after the children and I think more importantly for us as clinicians it allows us to enhance the care given to families and not just to the child in hospital. Elaine, our fish are loved by everyone.

  4. Thank you for the comments so far. Our team is very passionate about this and must acknowledge the help and support from jen rogers too.

  5. Really inspiring to read. I’m in Admin, and probably about as far removed from patient care as possible, but your message is applicable in all aspects of life, not just on the wards, so thank you very much for sharing.

  6. Thank you Ray. I had that thought after this blog was completed. What matters to me is not just applicable to patient care. We should try to ask our colleagues “what matters to you?” We may be very surprised at the answers and this could improve professional relationships and team working. Fancy trying it Ray?!

  7. Lovely blog Sharron and Caroline. you are so right that the answers you get often surprise, and its usually the simple things that matter to people. For the past year, we have included the “5 must dos” in our generic mental health nursing assessment including “what matters to you” and the responses give a valuable insight into the person that you would never gain from a normal clinical based assessment. It really help to ensure that recovery plans are truly person centred.

  8. Really enjoyed reading your blog Caroline and Sharon…the personal,simple things mean so much to our patients when in our care,and so good to be reminded of this.

  9. Hi Caroline and Sharon! Great job on the blog. Congratulations!

    As someone who often pops in and out of the ward I am often moved, humbled and inspired by the behaviours I witness there. I think if we got staff to draw out ‘what matters to me’ for themselves, we would see their commitment to the care and well being of the children, young people and their families. ‘Values’ are central here. The behaviours I see on the ward are expressions of this. ‘values-in-action’ if you like.
    The whole ‘what matters to me’ idea would be pretty pointless if it was a ‘tick-box’ exercise and no-one acted on what they found out about patients. I love the bit about ‘doing what matters’. That’s what I get to see on the ward. It’s heartening!

    • Jim thanks so much. Its great to read this as it is through your eyes.
      We work really hard in ward 15 and involve children and families in all we do.
      We have been talking about doing a ‘what matters to me’ for staff so we can display this for all to see.

  10. Thank-you very much for this thoughtful and inspiring blog. For me, what you have written about is so fundamentally intrinsic to building good relationships, not just with others but also with self. If we know what matters to us, what our values are, we are more likely to be open to what matters to others and be able to respond with compassion. I love the idea of sharing this exercise with colleagues, I think this could help to build empathy and understanding, which connects us in to one another. I particularly enjoyed the ‘smiley doctors and nurses comments’. This matters to me very much too, for all staff. I also very much enjoyed reading Hazel Boreland’s response about her experience of caring for the gentleman who needed to be at the bottom of his bed so he could ‘look out for his pals’. This blog space here is a bit like that -learning and looking out for one another. That is also what matters to me. Thank-you again.

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