One of the country’s leading nurses has called on staff to brave opposition from others and speak out if they witness something that is wrong or falls short of standards.
Liz Redfern, a former deputy chief nursing officer who joined the NHS as a cadet nurse in 1970, was speaking after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Brighton.
“Some of my proudest moments are when I have spoken up against poor practice whatever the consequences for me”
“There will have been times already that have made you uncomfortable when you have seen practice that fell short of your own personal standards,” she told an audience of newly-graduating nurses.
“You know what you are witnessing is wrong – either technically or morally – and sometimes you will have spoken out and sometimes not,” she said.
“I’ve had those moments too in my career – some of my proudest moments are when I have spoken up against poor practice whatever the consequences for me,” said Ms Redfern, who retired as chief nurse for NHS England South in March.
“Maintaining that internal moral compass in the face of opposition is not easy, but I would strongly commend it you as always being worth it,” she added.
It was “often a false assumption” to assume that it was someone else’s responsibility to sort out or make right, she noted.
She told the audience there was a continuing need “to be clear about our own personal standards and where we’ll stand up for something against the views of others, however strong”.
Ms Redfern received her doctorate in recognition of her major contribution to the NHS and to the education of nurses and other health professions.
She was made a CBE in 2009 and won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nursing Times Awards 2013.
Ms Redfern also used her speech to say that, while technology had changed, there was still a need “to recognise how vulnerable people feel when they enter our familiar world” – whether for the first time as an acute episode or as a “normal experience” like having a baby.
She said: “The ultimate tool in continuously improving the patient experience is you, your heart, your hands, your arms, your minds, your compassion and your common sense.
“Your ability to leave behind the grumpy feeling you had when you left home this morning behind and focus on the person you are caring for.”
- In 2013 Nursing Times launched the Speak Out Safely campaign to encourage healthcare providers to develop cultures that actively encourage staff to raise the alarm when they see poor practice, and to protect them when they do so.