The nursing profession must create a “narrative” that is forward looking, positive and welcoming to young people if it is to rebuild its tarnished image, according to a senior government nurse.
Viv Bennett is director of nursing at the Department of Health and, along with NHS Commissioning Board chief nurse Jane Cummings, has been drawing up a draft “Vision for Nursing” in England.
The strategy is underpinned by “six Cs”: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.
Speaking about the “vision” last week at the annual Unison nursing seminar, Professor Bennett said: “Elements of our profession are having a really bad time in the press. We are in a position where the whole nursing discourse is centred on the failures of the system and a few practitioners.
“We want to build a nursing narrative, which is forward looking, positive looking and really makes visible…. all nurses, midwives and care givers who are doing a fantastic job every day.”
Professor Bennett said action was needed to “rebuild pride in being a nurse and the pride of the public in their nurses”.
“We need to be saying what works well and demonstrating some of the really good nursing care that is making a difference to people across all settings,” she said.
It must be focused on “excellent and enduring values” for the current healthcare system, she said, rather than constantly “turning the clock back” and saying “if only they did it like they used to, if only they brought back something they used to do”.
Professor Bennett added that the profession needed to be more welcoming to young people and promote itself as “a really excellent career”.
She said: “We have to face some truths around it. We are known as a profession that actually savages it’s young. I’ve heard that comment a lot of times….and that’s an awful thing to have said.
“People will give you examples, they are not fit for practice, they are no good on the wards, they didn’t train like I did so they’re bad, they’re full of ideas that will never work. We need to stop doing it.
“We need to really welcome the young into our profession and make it somewhere where people want to be.”
A draft version of the “vision” is currently out for consultation. A final draft is due to be published in December.