England’s new chief nursing officer has declared her intention to restore public confidence in the profession, in her first full interview in the post.
Jane Cummings outlined her “vision” for the profession to Nursing Times and set out how she plans to address public and media concern about nursing.
She said it was imperative the public believe nurses will offer them safe and effective care.
Referring to coverage of high profile care failures in recent months and years she said: “There have been some difficult reports to read and you hear horrible stories.
“There is a lot of work to do to build confidence. I am not naïve about that.”
In particular in relation to the public inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which is due to present its final report to government in October, Ms Cummings said: “We need to acknowledge when things do go wrong.” She said she expected she would appear a lot in the media when the report is published.
But Ms Cummings, who was appointed in March, said she believed she could overcome negative views about the profession. Working closely with Professor Viv Bennett – the nursing director for public health in the Department of Health – she plans to create “a new narrative for nursing”.
She began talks on the new strategy earlier this month in a meeting with 50 high-level nursing representatives, as revealed by Nursing Times.
Ms Cummings said: “The outcomes I want to achieve are: pride in the profession – I want people to feel proud to tell someone they are a nurse; respect for nurses and midwives; and safe and effective care with good patient experience.”
Her vision and narrative will be based around “five Cs”, which Ms Cummings revealed for the first time publicly to Nursing Times (see below).
She said work to restore confidence would include promoting less well known roles and the impact of nurses on care quality measures. She said: “If you looked at the national media, you’d think nursing was about looking after older people in hospital – and usually doing it badly.
“That doesn’t show the breadth and depth of nursing. We need to identify the nursing contribution to health outcomes.”
Ms Cummings and Professor Bennett will begin work on five “domains” to develop the nursing strategy: Staffing, delivering care and measuring impact, patient experience, staff experience and public engagement.
They will work alongside the Nursing and Care Quality Forum – the review set up by the Prime Minister – to find evidence for best practice and spread it.
Ms Cummings said: “We will achieve this by spreading good practice and using patient feedback and staff experience.”
The work will also draw on Energise 4 Excellence, a programme Ms Cummings spearheaded in her previous role as NHS North West strategic health authority chief nurse, she said. It is aimed at improving both quality and productivity in nursing care.
However, Ms Cummings also acknowledged changing nursing care quality – and public perceptions - will be difficult to implement against a backdrop of cuts and low morale.
“We are in a difficult economic situation, and slash and burn cuts do not help quality. But that is why we all have to take responsibility to improve things,” Ms Cummings said.
She acknowledged that the “elephant in the room is staffing levels”. She said she supported “in theory” the care quality forum’s recommendation that nursing directors should be able to tell other directors when they need additional staffing, and for ward sisters to be considered “supernumerary” – or not expected to contribute to basic staffing levels – so they can focus on leadership.
Ms Cummings said if nurses spoke out when they identified poor care, public confidence and nurse pride could be restored.
She said she wanted to help that happen. “It is easier for me to say than for people to do it, but we need to create a culture so people feel much more able to do this,” she said.
Ms Cummings said every nurse must feel able to influence change. “We all have power to make a difference with every patient contact,” she said.
• Care – what we do day to day, we take care of people
• Compassion – not what we do, but how we do it, treating patients with dignity and respect
• Commitment – there needs to be a nursing commitment to improve outcomes and do the right thing
• Communication – we must think about the way we communicate with colleagues and managers as well as patients, relatives and carers, but this C is also about me and my desire to use social media to engage more and deliver key messages
• Courage –being brave enough to do the right thing and speak up when you are not happy with something your organisation is doing