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OPINION

Emma Clifford: 'Care workers can reduce the burden on nurses’

Nurses, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I want to see a lot less of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re all fabulous. You’re always willing to answer questions and impart advice. You always make time to squeeze in a glance at Mrs Smith’s heel if I’m a bit worried, even though you often haven’t got a minute to spare. But every time I see you it’s because something has gone wrong, and nine times out of ten I am sure that thing could have been prevented.

As a care worker, my role isn’t to fix or to heal, but to prevent and preserve. If I am receiving anyone into my care it is probably because their health and wellbeing have taken a downward spiral. I am there to preserve people – their personality, their dignity and their wishes – for as long as they need my care. Or that’s how it should be, anyway.

‘Care work must become a fully fledged, respected profession’

Along the way, I need to be vigilant. The quality of people’s skin, the weight they gain and lose, their posture, their sleep patterns, their temper: all these things and more I must monitor daily so I am aware of any deterioration from the first moment and can act accordingly. Yet we don’t teach care workers why they must observe. Some of us know it is good practice, yet many more don’t. As a result, many warning signs are missed and therefore so are the opportunities for prevention and early intervention.

If we truly taught care workers about their power – and duty – to prevent, imagine how much of nurses’ workload I could eliminate.

At a rough estimate, I’d say that 70% of district nurse visits to my care home relate to ulcers. We know – because visiting nurses tell us – that those who spend long periods in bed need to be turned regularly.

But, while it galls me and many of my colleagues to see those in our care languishing in front of televisions hour after hour, few understand that the negative effects of this commonplace practice are physical as well as mental and emotional.

Even my understanding that it is important to get up every so often and take the pressure off the heels and bottom is vague at best – and I’ve tried to do my research.

But just think – if I had one more member of staff on each shift, we could spend some time encouraging people to do activities that got them standing, walking, or even just shifting around in their chairs. We could relieve pressure and prevent ulcers.

I reckon that extra member of staff would cost little more than the money we’d save on creams and dressings, and we’d certainly save you nurses a few visits.

That’s just one example of what better training and staffing in social care could do. And I haven’t even touched on catheters, diabetes monitoring and accident and emergency admissions.

We need to have a conversation on a national level about what prevention rather than cure really looks like – and for that conversation to be a success we must include the voices of frontline staff at all levels.

As the ageing population increases, I do not want to see nurses on their knees, struggling with ridiculous staff-to-patient ratios and diminished resources simply because those of us at the beginning of the care system didn’t take action to prevent common conditions. My work directly affects the work of nurses and all other health professionals, and that is why care work must become a fully fledged, respected profession.

Emma Clifford

Readers' comments (8)

  • Emma Clifford

    Well said !

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  • Totally agree,

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  • Well done Emma and keep up the good work. You are a fine example of what a good carer should be, whatever is said on your badge be it HCA/Auxillary or Carer; you are worth your weight in gold.

    I only wish you and others like you were paid more and had better recognition not just from the public, your employers, the health authority and the government; but from some qualified nurses too.

    Any regulation that may become compulsory for carers should come out of either the employers or the public purse. You are not paid enough to have to fund yet another body who will just wield a big stick to beat you with.

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  • Brilliant Emma, but until those who commission and plan care develop the same understanding and start to realise that prevention and doing things right from the start is cheaper than intervening when they have gone too far, and that's not even taking account of the human suffering involved, we will always be in the position we're in right now! Will any commissioners or policy makers dare to reply to your post and explain why your proposals can't be implemented?

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  • John Howes

    A very good analysis Emma. Unfortunately your logic and very acute assessment will be lost in the higher echelons. Just before retiring after 48 years in nursing, as a manager and finally back on the frontline in Critical Care, I was a member of the Hospital Joint Staff Committee. That year the hospital took out 148 whole time equivalent, nursing posts, surprise, surprise. They were slammed by a rejuvenated CQC for a lack of staffing

    This country has seen thousands of nursing post lost. (Official statistics, in the public domain). North Staffs was a horror story, then we discover that there are many more Trusts (oxymoron) in the same position.

    The NHS has operated on a firefighting basis for as long as I can remember. What now, recruiting from overseas when many nurses trained in the UK cannot get jobs!

    This is reminiscent of 1999, we recruited from the Philippines in droves, the majority were first class, and the remainder were exploited in nursing homes. People with learning difficulties, we can help, senior health managers appear to suffer learning difficulties beyond help.

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  • excellent article which now needs to be widely read and action taken on what has been said and to offer the best possible training and working conditions for our valued carers.

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  • yes emma I can team up with you on your comments I am on the same level as you or may be higher and have years of experience in all levels of an and peple now a day don't listen to their aux's that nine tmes out of ten back them up in a delemmer we are one of a kind yes we carry on with our job's and sometimes do more then we should but if anything gose wrong we are first to now and it may not have anything to do with us but we get it all the same keep up the good work emma we don't ask for pats on backs or brownie point we just care and that is our job 100%

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  • Health care assistants are amazing and should be given more recognition .Keep up the good work

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