SOS ambassador, Alice, was horrified at the treatment she witnessed and felt it her duty to speak out
The importance of speaking out when you witness poor care really hit home the day I witnessed a member of staff inappropriately communicate and mobilize a vulnerable patient who had suffered a stroke. Without informed consent, or emotional regard, the staff member stripped the elderly gentleman and changed his incontinence pad.
I was horrified.
I questioned the member of staff while this was happening and diplomatically informed him that what he was doing could be done in a different, more caring way.
I was not in my student nurse role at the time, which I feel contributed to his behaviour towards me; he looked at me as if I was stupid, finished what he was doing and walked out.
When I got home that evening, I told my family what had happened and that I was going to write a complaint. I knew with no uncertainty that it was my responsibility to say something, but my family’s response shocked me.
They told me that I would be risking my position at the hospital and jeopardising my job if I raised my concerns. I couldn’t believe they felt this way but their points resonated with me.
It was then that I realised first-hand just how vulnerable you are without someone supporting you when you wish to speak out.
I knew the patient care I had witnessed was wrong, and yet I doubted myself. I thought of the 2013 Francis report and the culture of shaming and bullying that followed whistleblowing.
I had never before imagined I’d question myself like this.
I contacted my tutors at university who gave me their absolute support. Suddenly, I felt confident in myself. The safety that their support gave me allowed me to proceed with raising my concerns through the trust’s policy.
Having support when raising concerns is so important; nothing is worse than that feeling of being alone.
A week or so later I received a reply from the matron who told me that she had been informed about this particular member of staff a number of times and yet as I was the first to put my concerns in writing, a formal investigation could now proceed.
How long could that poor practice have continued and how many vulnerable patients could have been harmed had I not spoken out? That thought scared me far more than the thought of whistleblowing.
Without the support of my university I may not have had the confidence in myself to raise my concerns. It is critically important that students know who they can turn to if they are worried about something they have witnessed.
I became an SOS Student Ambassador because I know my university would support me in the future, but I also know how important it is that every student feels this way.
Alice Eveleigh is in her 3rd year studying adult branch at Bournemouth University and an SOS Student Ambassador