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Would you share crockery and cutlery with your patients?

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5 November, 2012

Would you share crockery and cutlery with your patients?

The jailing of two nurses and four healthcare support working for the abuse of patients with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View hospital raises questions about why nurses fail to treat their patients as they would like to be treated themselves.

In a recent article in Nursing Times Steve Mee suggests that for people to be treated so badly they must first be “othered” . Othering is evident in ways that are unconscious. Steve suggests most of us engage in this hidden othering using the following example:

“Four people who have been resettled from a long-stay institution live in a house, with 24-hour support from a staff team. The staff are well organised. They keep a set of staff cups in a high cupboard. In a lower cupboard, there are client cups, which are cheaper and older than the staff cups. There is a dishwasher in the house and no one who lives there has a communicable disease.”

Can nurses claim to value the people they support if they are not prepared to share crockery? If they share with other staff but not patients/clients, this is othering in practice. The use of a dishwasher ensures that there is no health threat, so why does this practice persist? If a patient/client has a communicable disease, they should have separate crockery from everyone else, not only staff.

Steve comments “As a manager of support services, I once challenged a group of staff about not sharing cups. One member of the team summed up his feelings by saying: “I don’t know why, but I just don’t fancy using the same cups as the clients.” This suggests that there is no rational reason for this practice, it just does not feel right to him. This justification sits at an unconscious level and is worthy of further discussion”.

Readers' comments (23)

  • An old problem this. No one complains when they go to the pub or to a restaurant about these things, and on a general ward there shouldn't really be a problem.
    However, in a closed environment like the one in the example ( Iam going to take an educated guess that they have LD or psychiatric problems) we were told NEVER to share cups and cutlery with the service users as on average they are more likely to have hepatitis ( 'a' I think) due to them not always having control over their hygeine and body fluids. I am sure that a few others would have been told something along those lines during their training and perhaps this is why this practise continues.

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  • of course I would use hospital cups although I would probably get into trouble if anyone saw me drinking from a 'patients' cup. They wouldn't care less if they saw me drinking from a mug. No doubt I would be accused of stealing the patients teabags/coffee just because it was in hospital cups. They would assume I'd nicked it off the tea-trolley.

    Nurses are a funny old bunch, I've seen them get irritated when a patient brings in their own cup or mug, accusing them of wanting a larger drink than everyone else.

    I think nurses use mugs because they are larger (the mugs, not the nurses) and it may be the only drink they get all day.

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  • I use my own mug at work, particularly during the flu and winter vomiting seasons to protect my self from the staff as much as anyone. A lot of the staff have young children, and there always seems to be something wrong with one or other of them.

    We are not allowed to use the patients mugs anyway, and there isn't any need to as there is a vast array of staff mugs in the staff room cupboard. It is not 'othering'

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  • tinkerbell

    of course, i have never had my own cup on the ward, i have never thought mental illness was contagious.

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  • the question is would the patients be happy sharing cups with the staff considering most staff just leave their mugs in the office for months - I guess all the green fluffy bacteria would cure any infections they might catch.

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  • Mertha Nyamande RMN

    That would be the biggest problem, wouldnt it? When we start seeing our patients as not human beings like ourselves... Why should we be different? That only affirms the stigma of them against us - thus creating a bigger problem. When you treat your patients like fellow human beings, you have a good chance of creating a much more effective therapeutic environment that will benefit both the staff and the patients.

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  • tinkerbell

    Mertha Nyamande RMN | 6-Nov-2012 3:10 pm

    Exactly.

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  • I have no problem sharing crockery or cutlery with patients however I do not due to the fact one may be accused of drinking patients tea/coffee or eating food belonging to patients hence I have my own mug, paper plates and plastic cutlery all which can be bought cheaply from the pound shop. I also provide my own tea/coffee etc. On a serious note providing cutlery and crockery is washed properly at the correct temperature I cannot see there being a problem in sharing these items with patients.

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  • We do have separate mugs but I think thats generally due to the fact that the hospital patient cups are quite small!!
    I have often used plates and cutlery that is also used by the patients. Have no problem with this. They've been through the dishwasher.

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  • Geraldine Fox

    i do have my own mug at work which i do not want to share with other staff,just as a matter of preference.this is a result of working in a prison and sharing cups with the prisoners,some of whom were not in the best of hygiene and i seemed to develop a lot of cold sores then?! ? a link,i don't know.i do use our residents' cutlery and crockery for my break times.they have been through the dishwasher.

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  • if the crockery and cutlery isn't clean enough for staff to use then it isn't clean enough for patients to use either. I often use a patients cup when I come into work early and pinch a cup of tea off the tea trolley, that is about the only benefit I get, apart from the odd broken digestive biscuit.

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  • if you had any respect for patients then you would be asking them if they are happy to share their crockery with the staff.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 8-Nov-2012 9:30 am

    Schhh - don't mention that you get half a broken digestive biscuit sometimes, there aren't that many perks to this job.

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  • on special occasions I may even pinch a piece of cake and when I have finished a nightshift without a break I have even been known to pinch a box of cereal.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 8-Nov-2012 6:23 pm

    It's OK let's have an Amnesty. I have lived off hospital food for the past 25 years and haven't done too badly either. This consisted mostly of left overs, roast potatoes, cups of gravy and dipping a slice of bread, some bread & butter pudding, spotty dick and custard. Macaroni cheese, which was an acquired taste. I think they must put drugs in hospital food cos' i became quite addicted to it over the years. Countless slices of toast (bread that was past it's best by date before housekeepers threw it in the bin, I would rather give to a hungry, hardworking colleague)which i buttered up for myself and other staff and then said 'come on, don't get caught, do you want jam/marmalade on it?. Eat it then'.

    You have to eat the leftovers quickly though to avoid being caught and risk the chance of choking. I have often wondered what would happen if i did choke on the rock hard roast potatoes and needed to be taken to A&E what might be put on the incident form and if i survived would there be some kind of disciplinary where i would be made an example of as a ward sister as shouldn't be encouraging staff to eat or treat them like human beings who need food but can't take a break cos' we were working our butts off getting everything done properly to ensure our patients wellbeing.

    You can never relax having something to eat on the ward but as we hardly ever got a break and have to eat whatever crumbs we can lay our hands on before collapsing with low blood sugars i have never felt guilty. We are not machines and need food and water.

    Some rules are wrong.

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  • tinkerbell

    NMC - none of the above was about me by the way, it was about my friend called 'hypothetical'.

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  • At least you get toast, we only get calorie laden gut busting croissants and cold bread.

    I do know of staff who have been disciplined for taking food off the trolley, I agree it is unfair. It's only cold leftovers that go in the bin now that piggy-bins are outlawed.

    Most shifts I survive on one cup of lukewarm tea and a couple of chocolates or a biscuit.

    Maybe it's time the Trust got disciplined for not taking care of it' staff by not providing time to have a break and access to hot food 24hrs a day. Our canteen closes at 8pm and god help you if you try and get served at breakfast or lunch with only 20mins to have a break. Visitors obviously come first, staff have to wait their turn.

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  • I have been known to share the patients toilets too (not when they are in there), it's either that or I tiddle my trousers as I don't get the time to go to the one and only staff loo which is shared between 2 wards and the admin staff.

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  • In the community if I am offered a drink then I takeit if the patient lives in a seemingly clean home. If the drink is then given in a cup which looks dirty/chipped etc then I have been known to let it get cold on purpose so I wouldn't have to drink it, so no offence to the patient but no risk of virus/bacteria to me. There have been times when I have been so desperate for a coffee fix and a break is a long, long way off. Some patients who are seen on a regular basis become more than patients and sharing a drink with them gives them a much needed chance to talk to someone other than their TV/radio/pet. Research shows that if one is tired a cup of coffee is better than anything else to keep a person awake. So on balance, in the community sharing patients' crockery is a positive thing.

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  • I work with people with learning disability and staff not only share cutlery and crockery but we sit and eat at the table with the residents. We feel that it creates less of an "us and them" atmosphere and makes the house feel more like home, which it is for our residents.

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