'Don’t allow nursing to surrender its voice'
Last week started with an interesting three days - Monday heralded in a day of judging for the Nursing Times Awards, followed by a Tuesday visit to two fabulous hospitals - Southmeads and University Hospitals Bristol - with RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter. And midweek, I was in Manchester at an NHS Employers event discussing nurse engagement.
It may sound a varied week, but in fact all of it had one common theme - every nurse I met showed a basic human need to feel special, to feel like they make a difference and to feel valued.
Nurses enter our awards to showcase how they have made a difference and to inspire others to follow suit. But make no mistake, they want to win for their colleagues, peers and organisations. They want to feel respected for their contribution.
And in Bristol, an acknowledgement from Mr Carter about the quality of their work made the world of difference to the students and registered nurses he met while he walked the wards.
At the NHS Employers event, nurses revealed a sense of feeling like the “martyrs” in their organisations - the ones who are last to find out information, first to have their training days taken away and always on hand to make sure that a new initiative works without unduly affecting the patients’ experience and safety.
They debated whether this is nurses’ perception or reality. Are nurses done to or could they change things and take control?
Certainly Mr Carter told the Bristol nurses not to underestimate the enormous power they have. He urged them to write to their MPs (referring to their concerns about the South West “pay cartel”), speak up when things are wrong in their organisations and make their case for service improvement and patient safety.
Courage, nurses are told, is what they need. But nurses deny they have any power to do this or that they will be listened to if they do.
Floods of letters from their constituents about an issue can make MPs a little twitchy. Going to see your MP to voice your concerns makes them twitchier still. But does it ever change policy?
Judging by the actions of the masses of nurses - they don’t believe so. The RCN petition to call a halt to the proposed NMC fee rise has attracted only 85,720 signatures, its ballot on whether to take industrial action about the pension cuts got a 16% response.
It seems years of being “done to” has eroded nurses’ sense of self-worth and so they now believe they will never be listened to. But if nurses have stopped speaking up for nursing, who is there left to do it?
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