It’s rare that I ever read anything in the papers about “a crisis in nursing” and actually agree with its sentiments.
Usually the columnist breaks my heart with the stories of poor care. But I know such incidents are rare (although always inexcusable), and I am confident in the profession’s ability because of the hundreds of nurses I meet every year, and hundreds more who write to me, telling me what they accomplish each time they go on shift.
I am usually left feeling saddened on behalf of those excellent nurses – whose abilities and motives have been called into question by the poor-performing few who are causing a haemorrhage of public confidence in the profession.
I feel differently about last week’s series on nursing in The Independent. There were some things that made my blood boil – the oft-repeated suggestion that student nurse education is getting worse because it’s moving to all-degree, for example. But, on the whole, many articles were measured. They acknowledged there were brilliant nurses, highlighted some of the extraordinary ways that they go out of their way to care, and reinforced the notion that we should not assume that all nurses are evil creatures, who enter the profession just so they can put drinks out of reach of frail, older patients.
What one of the articles, published last Thursday, also identified was that British culture is changing and that is influencing care.
It relayed the story of a lecturer who said it was not uncommon for student nurses to have to be told not to text friends while at the patient’s bedside.
In a week in which a coffee seller in Norwich banned customers from using mobile phones while ordering their cappucinos and americanos, it’s pretty clear to see that British etiquette is flexing. As a society we are losing some of the manners previous generations held dear.
Of course, a nurse’s focus should be entirely on the patient. Nothing else is good enough. But the public and the media should also recognise that nurses aren’t a special breed. That nurses exhibit some of these abbreviated manners is unforgiveable, yes, but it’s not a symptom that nurses are bad and uncaring – but that they are part of our modern society, and able to succumb to the pressures and distractions of the fast-paced world we inhabit.
This doesn’t mean we should not try to stop it. If a coffee seller won’t hand over a latte without gaining the full respect of a customer, nurses have every right to be the gatekeepers of good manners in their jobs – expecting and exhibiting full attention and focus.