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Practice team blog

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

28 September, 2015 Posted by: -

Analysis of complaints sent to the health service ombudsman has found that not receiving an adequate apology is the most common complaint, accounting for a third of cases last year.

As we know from our home lives, if someone says sorry it means they have acknowledged how you feel and taken note of your concerns. You are not invisible and you can move forward.

However, maybe it is harder to say sorry in a work environment; it can feel more complicated and more significant. Reluctance to say sorry may be related to fear that by doing so you have accepted you were at fault, and that accepting fault may have ramifications.

Useful RCN guidance clarifies this issue. Good Practice for Handling Feedback encourages an open, friendly and honest response to a complaint. And says on the issue of saying sorry: “Offering an apology does not constitute an acceptance of responsibility. In many cases an apology will help you to manage the immediate problem of someone wanting to share their bad experience with someone who cares, so that hopefully you can ensure that it doesn’t reoccur.”

Nursing revalidation is coming next year and will require, among other things, nurses to provide five pieces of practice-related feedback. But of course as these complaints figures show, not all feedback is good. So gather all your positive feedback for revalidation, but more importantly, think of how to deal most appropriately with negative feedback. Sorry might seem like the hardest word but it appears to be the best.

'What was the moment when you realised nursing was for you?'

14 September, 2015 Posted by: -

Last week we gatecrashed the excitement of the new term with our student readers.

We started our “Freshers’ Week” by asking current nursing students what attracted them to nursing and were blown away by the response. They shared stories of being inspired by fantastic nursing staff, and many explained how much they’d given up to follow their dream.

But what really came across was how a few kind words can change a person’s outlook.

Stephanie Morris, a student nurse at Bangor University, told us about helping a woman who had recently had a permanent tracheotomy fitted to communicate. When this patient told Stephanie she would make a “wonderful nurse” she forgot her doubts and is now certain that she is on the right career path.

“That night I went home and applied for my nursing course”

Kate Eckert, who’s now studying at the University of Derby, described a similar experience. When working as a HCA, the thanks she received from a 97-year-old woman after helping her get ready for her birthday party made her realise she’d found the career she wanted to do, she recalls: “That night I went home and applied for my nursing course.”

“Being told that I was a ‘natural’ by my mentor made me happy but to have a patient reaffirm this made me nearly burst with pride”

Going out of her way to work with a patient who had been labelled “difficult” by some staff felt natural for Danielle Kirk from Middlesex University, but the response she received for doing so will always stick with her. “Being told that I was a ‘natural’ by my mentor made me happy but to have a patient reaffirm this made me nearly burst with pride.”

“It made me wonder if all nurses have a moment that they think back to if they ever have any doubts about their career”

Reading these stories made me recall my own training and those moments when it was crystal clear just how much difference one nurse can make to a person at their lowest point.

It made me wonder if all nurses have a moment that they think back to if they ever have any doubts about their career.

So please share your stories with us: what was the moment when you realised nursing was for you?

The patients we choose not to touch

31 August, 2015 Posted by: -

I recently read the novel Even the Dogs, which is a fascinating insight into the lives of homeless and vulnerable people. The author Jon McGregor describes the stark realities of living on the edge of society, but what is most striking are his references to the importance of touch. He writes about how infrequently positive touch occurs in his characters’ lives, and describes one experience of a consultation with a nurse:

“…changing your dressing or taking your blood pressure or listening to the crackling in your lungs, they got to touch you with their clean soft hands… it helps”.

Jon McGregor

Touch is so important to all of us but perhaps we only truly value it when it is gone. A friend whose husband died some years ago described to me how much she missed holding his hand and feeling physically close to someone. She said: “no one really hugs me anymore”.

These comments made me reflect on how we use therapeutic touch in nursing.

It is well known that long-term conditions such as dementia can create barriers to touch. The Alzheimer’s Society has suggested that many people with advanced dementia living in care homes have little contact with staff other than for personal care or help with eating and drinking.

However, there are initiatives aimed at addressing this. I was inspired by an article in Nursing Times a few weeks ago, which describes an intervention called Namaste Care. This structured programme of sensory activities aims to improve end-of-life care for people in nursing homes who have advanced dementia by giving them pleasure and helping them connect with others. Touch is a crucial part of this initiative, but the authors faced challenges in introducing it in homes.

They wrote:

“At first, staff found it strange to take off their gloves to give hand massages, but they are now starting to understand the importance of skin-on-skin contact when attempting to connect with residents, and that gloves should only be worn when there in a risk of contamination or transmitting infection”.

We all need to think about the barriers we create between ourselves and our patients that prevent the use of therapeutic touch. We also need to be aware of unpopular patients - those people we would rather avoid, and guard against this affecting the care we give them.

Just spending a little more time over washing and drying patients’ feet, combing their hair or applying moisturiser to their hands could make an enormous difference - even if it just for that moment and, in the case of those with dementia, quickly forgotten. 


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'Let us help you get ready for revalidation'

17 August, 2015 Posted by: -

It’s now five years since we launched Nursing Times Learning, our suite of online learning units, and in that time nurses have used it to complete over 35,000 hours’ CPD. After months of planning, editorial enhancements and technical design work, we are delighted to have launched a new learning system to better meet nurses’ professional development needs.

Nursing Times Learning has been completely redesigned to incorporate a Learning Passport that enables you to store all evidence of CPD, whether done through NTL learning other other providers. And as the profession prepares for the new revalidation system to be introduced by the Nursing Midwifery Council, we have built the passport specifically to support you in meeting your revalidation responsibilities.

Currently scheduled to launch in April 2016, revalidation will require all nurses and midwives to demonstrate that they have met a range of responsibilities in order to renew their registration every three years. These are:

  • 450 practice hours (900 for those with dual nurse and midwife registrations);
  • 40 hours of CPD (at least 20 of which must be “participatory” – such as attending conferences, seminars and workshops, or shadowing colleagues);
  • Five pieces of practice-related feedback, from colleagues, patients or service users, carers or student nurses;
  • Five written reflections on the NMC Code, their CPD or practice-related feedback;
  • A professional development discussion with another practitioner on the NMC register;
  • Confirmation from another registrant (usually your line manager), that you have met all these responsibilities.

While this may seem like a lot of work, many nurses who took part in NMC pilots of the system found that they were already doing most of the activities but not necessarily writing them down. They also found that the process of writing their evidence made them consider what they had learnt, and improved their practice.

The NT Learning Passport makes revalidation as easy as possible by providing a space for you to store all your evidence in a single place, ready to be exported at the click of a button to show your line manager or submit to the NMC if you are asked to do so. It also contains a range of templates to write up your evidence, which are designed to ensure you meet the NMC’s requirements.

In addition to the passport, we have updated our most popular learning units and launched new ones, giving us 16 units on fundamental aspects of nursing care. Over the coming months we will be updating more units from our old learning programme, and commissioning new ones. As with the practice section of Nursing Times, the units are double-blind peer reviewed, and are written by experts in the subjects - often in collaboration with national nursing organisations.

The full Nursing Times Learning system is available only to subscribers; however, some units will be free for anyone to access providing they are registered users of

For more information about the new Nursing Times Learning, click here.

Hospital discharge is still putting patients at risk

3 August, 2015 Posted by: -

There is more to planning a hospital discharge than ordering medications and booking the transport. All the care and treatment that patients receive while in hospital can be compromised if their discharge home leaves them vulnerable.

Research out this month shows that this aspect of care is still being neglected in some areas, leaving patients at increased risk of being readmitted to hospital.

A survey by Healthwatch of 3,000 patients found that many were not involved in decisions about going home and that often they and their families were not aware of extra support they would need.  

Communication between hospitals and community providers was found to continue to be an issue, with information not being passed on and services not being set up.

The declining number of district nurses is putting huge pressure on care being provided in the community so it is not surprising that some patients find themselves falling through a hole in the net of care once they are back home.

The authors of the Healthwatch report call for better communication between hospital and community providers. While this is needed, and will help to improve this issue, if the number of community nurses continues to be insufficient then all the hard work put into patients’ recovery is put at risk by their discharge home.


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If you’re not going to show off, at least show someone else off

20 July, 2015 Posted by: -

Three weeks ago, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter urged nurses to speak out about their achievements.

He was speaking at the annual RCN Congress for the last time before he steps down on 31 July and his parting words certainly struck a chord if the Twitter reaction is anything to go by. His point wasn’t that nurses need to start showing off but simply that the profession needs to stick up for itself and show the world just how much responsibility, initiative and intelligence the role requires.

But why do nurses need to be told to blow their own trumpets? Is the profession really so shy and retiring?

“But why do nurses need to be told to blow their own trumpets?”

The obvious answer is that no-one goes into nursing for the glory. You might be proud to call yourself a nurse, but while what you’re actually doing may be seen as heroic to others outside the profession, finding a nurse who describes themselves as a hero would be a challenge.

Although I agree with Mr Carter wholeheartedly, I think that we may need to accept that the type of people who choose a selfless career such as nursing, probably aren’t going to be the sort to brag about their achievements.

So how about bragging about someone else’s?

At first glance, the Nursing Times Inspirational Leaders list probably looks pretty insignificant to the majority of our readers. But if you’ve ever felt inspired by a fellow nurse then it couldn’t be more relevant.

There are 50 places on the list and my personal hope is that it will be packed full of frontline nurses leading by example. Everyone you put forward will be discussed by our judges and a decision made on whether they meet the entry criteria.

Being acknowledged as one of the UK’s 50 most inspiring nurse leaders will be a huge boost for your nominee’s career and show them the positive impact that they are having on nursing.

Please, get nominating – let’s make sure this list represents the leaders YOU want acknowledged.

Find out more and submit your nominations here


Does mandatory training have to be boring?

1 July, 2015 Posted by: -

In his book Do No Harm retired neurosurgeon Henry Marsh described the irritation of taking time away from his work to sit though mandatory training.

He wrote: “The seminar was scheduled to last three hours and I settled down to get some sleep”.

While I would be remiss to argue that mandatory training is not essential, I wondered how many of you dread the annual get together to go over fire procedures, resus and safeguarding? I did a quick straw poll of nurses to find out if their experiences matched those of Henry Marsh.

One nurse told me that during her update the fire officers apologised in advance as he had borrowed a power point he hadn’t looked at. Another described it as a tick box exercise where staff were lectured to but there was little time for discussion or questions. 

A senior clinical nurse specialist recalled being told off because she was responding to an urgent email during a resus update and her colleague said several doctors appeared to be asleep at the back of the room.

The overwhelming impression is that mandatory training is delivered to people who do not have time to be there in a way that does not engage or encourage participation.

My straw poll of experiences of mandatory training may be selective and I apologise in advance to anyone who has devised a more imaginative and interactive ways of updating staff on the essentials. I know some organisations have now adopted e-learning to deliver updates and perhaps this needs to be the way forward. This could include some element of assessment so that staff would have to engage. There is no doubt that staff need to be updated but it has to be more than a tick box exercise. For one, surely we need to assess whether staff have understood the information delivered and assess learning needs?

Please tell us about your experiences. What works well? How can mandatory training be made more relevant and engaging?

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'Start planning now and you'll find revalidation painless'

16 June, 2015 Posted by: -

It’s been talked about for so long that nurses could be forgiven for thinking nurse revalidation would never happen. But it is happening – and it’s happening soon.

From April 2016 all nurses will be required to undertake a range of revalidation activities including CPD, reflections and collating feedback.

In the current system, few nurses are asked to prove they have done 35 hours’ CPD when renewing their registration every three years. However, with revalidation, managers will have to confirm nurses have completed all their revalidation activities, so employers are now getting actively involved.

At last week’s Nursing Times Deputies’ Congress, half a day was spent helping deputy chief nurses get their organisations ready for revalidation.

Probably the most eagerly awaited session was a report from the organisations that have piloted the proposed new system. I suspect most people in the room were expecting to hear of some painful experiences.

But that’s not what happened.

The pilot sites acknowledged the challenges they had encountered - that’s to be expected in a pilot. But the sites not only survived the experience – they seemed positively energised by it. They spoke of revalidation as more than just a way of protecting patients by ensuring nurses are fit to practise. It is also a way for the profession to demonstrate its worth, and for individual nurses to embrace a culture of continual learning.

And the individual nurses in the pilot sites also seemed to have embraced revalidation.

While they may have had their doubts in the early stages, in practice they realised they were already doing most of the revalidation activities. As one said: “We’re already doing this – we just weren’t writing it down before”.

For the vast majority of nurses, revalidation won’t require many new activities – it will mainly involve keeping track of them and their impact on patient care. If you do that as you go along, you’ll find revalidation painless.

You may even start to value it as you realise the benefits it can bring to you and your practice.

Comments (10)

Telling the difference between dementia and delirium

8 June, 2015 Posted by: -

Patients who suffer from delirium are more likely to have poor outcomes according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published last week.

A third of patients admitted to ICU were found to develop delirium. These patients were found to have an increased risk of dying during their hospital admission, have a longer stay in hospital, and cognitive impairment after discharge.

The researchers outline the long-term consequences of delirium, which is associated with increased mortality, functional disability and dementia.

As identified in this review the risk of delirium is particularly high in those admitted to ICU and it is also more of a risk to older people, those with terminal illness and those undergoing major surgery.

Delirium can be overlooked and misdiagnosed as dementia and as a result not be treated appropriately. Our new Nursing Times Learning unit on Dementia, delirium and depression clearly explains the differences between these three conditions and how they should be managed.

The systematic review clearly shows the impact of delirium on both recovery and long-term health. Update your knowledge of this condition by working through our online unit, which was developed in association with the Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling. The case scenario format will help you to translate the theory into practice.

'Let's realise the potential of our practice nurses'

25 May, 2015 Posted by: -

I wonder if anyone was surprised by the recent news that a group of GP practices have been placed into special measures.

The move came after Care Quality Commission inspectors raised concerns about a lack of staff learning following safety incidents, failure by nurses to understand mental capacity legislation, and outdated training on vaccinations.

The situation plays into the perception still held by many of practice nursing as a dead-end job with few career opportunities, and one that is still not widely regarded as an option for newly qualified nurses.

Over many years I have frequently heard concerns voiced about the lack of training and development available to practice nurses, who often work in isolation. There are complaints that some GPs do not allow time or money for training and many have learnt their skills “on the job”. Some of these nurses will face real challenges as they move towards revalidation.

However, things are changing. Increased demand and a shortage of GPs has highlighted the vital role practice nurses can play in providing care.

There are fantastic examples of practice nurses working in autonomous roles, as advanced nurse practitioners and developing new models of service. They play an invaluable role in managing long-term conditions and providing continuity of care.

There is great work underway to dispel the myth that practice nurses need secondary care experience before moving into primary care. Back in March we published an article about a scheme that aimed to recruit newly qualified nurses into general practice. The Health Education Yorkshire and Humber scheme creates high-quality undergraduate placements in GP practices. In over six years it created 350 student placements and the number of students considering general practice rose from 31%-73%.

Practice nurses are going to play a vital role in managing and delivering patient care in the future and the roles and opportunities that are emerging in general practice provide exciting opportunities. However, GPs need to understand that nurses need education and development along with supportive professional leadership networks. Only then can their potential be realised.

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