Interactions with healthcare staff

People being treated for a burn are likely to meet a variety of healthcare professionals involved in their care. Sometimes a patient will see the same healthcare professional many times during their treatment and recovery. For the people we spoke to, interactions with healthcare staff could have a big impact on them.

This section covers:

  • Positive and negative experiences
  • Kindness and positivity
  • Empathy and understanding
  • Communication
  • Accessing help from services

Positive and negative experiences

For the people we spoke to, most of their interactions with healthcare staff were said to be positive. Medical staff were praised for being “wonderful”, “helpful” and “supportive”.

Helen Y said that the kindness of the burns staff helped her cope better with the pain.

Some said that their treatment and recovery experiences were positively enhanced by the kindness and understanding from medical staff. Saffron warmly remembered play specialists helping her through “hard times”.

Marilyn spoke highly of the staff she met whilst she was being treated for her burn. She told us that the staff at the specialist burns unit were “absolutely fantastic with me, I can’t praise them enough for the amount of work they put into making that burn better”. Tara told us that the staff at the hospital were like a family to her. She said the staff took on a “parental role” and this is “probably the reason that I’ve never feared hospitals”.

Marilyn was grateful that staff took the time to get to know her.

A few people told us about difficult interactions and aspects that they felt could have been better, such as communication, accessing services and empathy (see below).

Kindness and positivity

Many of the people we spoke to expressed their gratitude for the kindness they were shown by healthcare professionals. Frazer told us that he “always felt looked after” by the burns nurses and they were always “helpful and nice”. When Sinead’s daughter, Elizabeth, was in intensive care after she was burnt, some of the burns nurses “became her friends” and, to this day, she “holds them very dear”.

Sinead recalled a time she was left a kind note by a nurse who was caring for her daughter.

Some people told us that healthcare practitioners went out of their way to help them. Amy and Chris Y told us that staff went and searched for a portable DVD player and DVDs for their son, William, when he was an inpatient at a Burns Unit.

Although the people we spoke to acknowledged that there were parts of their treatment which were unavoidably unpleasant, such as dressing changes, for the most part they regarded their time in hospital as positive. It was welcomed when healthcare staff helped create an environment that felt calm, despite the situation being potentially very stressful. Helen X told us her hospital stay was “like a spa retreat” because she felt so well looked after.

Rhian told us that her stay at the burns unit was relaxing.

The positive mental attitudes of healthcare professionals within burn care were mentioned frequently by the people we spoke with. This could be encouraging for people whilst they were receiving treatment and recovering. Sabrina told us that the burns nurses “did everything they could to be helpful” and “they tried to make me smile and laugh”. Helen X and Frazer both said that the nurses were “really cheerful” and “good fun”.

Empathy and understanding

It was appreciated when healthcare professionals recognised how upsetting the situation could be for the person with the burn and their families. Marilyn told us that they were “so lovely” at a time in her life where she was “so vulnerable”. Chris X said the burns nurses had the right “combination of being human and professional”.

Sabrina told us that every person she interacted with offered her sympathy.

Lindsay said that the burns staff were “amazing”. She said they had empathy and were considerate.

However, a few people we spoke with felt that some healthcare professionals who treated them had not been as empathetic as they would have liked. When Haydn struggled to administer an eyewash into his eye, he thought that the staff “weren’t very sympathetic” and “seemed a bit frustrated that I couldn’t do that”.

Jasmine felt that a better balance of empathy was needed.

Some people told us that they felt “reassured” by the burns staff and that there was “no judgement” from them. This was especially important for parents like Chris X, who had worried about being seen as ‘unfit parents’ when their child had been burnt, but also people who were burnt as adults who feared the circumstances of their accident might be judged. Justyn said that the environment of the clinic he attended “has been a very safe, it has been very, kind of, non-judgmental”. Lindsay said that “from receptionists to the nurses”, she was “immediately made to feel comfortable”.


It was important to people we spoke to that healthcare professionals communicated clearly with them and used language that was easy to understand. Helen X described herself as being quite “curious”, so she appreciated that “the doctors are brilliant, they explained it all”.

However, Rhian told us that some medical staff used “doctor language” and didn’t always speak to her directly. She said that, because she grew up having dyslexia, she has had years of practice asking people for clarification, so she felt confident telling doctors that she didn’t understand – but that others might not feel able to do this.

It could be difficult to hear from healthcare professionals that they weren’t yet sure how serious the burn injury was or what outcome there would be. Although some people disliked this uncertainty, others felt that it was important healthcare professionals were honest and didn’t try to give false reassurance.

Sinead felt like a “glimmer of hope” had been taken away from her after she received differing information when one surgeon said her daughter would be able to play the piano when she grew up and then her daughter needed to have parts of her fingers removed.

Sinead felt like a “glimmer of hope” had been taken away from her after one surgeon said her daughter would be able to play the piano when she grew up and then her daughter needed to have parts of her fingers removed.

William said the doctors spoke to him like he was a “grown-up”.

Accessing help from services

For a few people, there had been barriers to accessing medical care for burns. Some felt that medical staff hadn’t been as helpful as they would have liked in helping them use the services.

Lindsay was instructed by burns specialists to attend her local GP surgery to have her daughter’s dressings changed but was initially told that there “were no appointments available”. Marilyn experienced something similar when she was told to make a GP appointment to have her dressing changed, but the surgery were, “short-staffed” so she had to wait a few days. This resulted in Marilyn’s burn becoming infected.

Lindsay was met with resistance when she tried to make an appointment for her daughter’s dressing to be changed.

The structure of healthcare services for burn injuries can be confusing too. You can read more in these sections about people’s experiences of the different medical services for burns, including specialist burn facilities, and inpatient, outpatient and follow-up care.

We’d love to hear your feedback about this site. Please let us know your thoughts here.