Media coverage should show nurses in their true light
Negative news stories about nurses are all too common, but we must highlight exemplary care so that the morale of nurses and student nurses isn’t damaged and to restore public confidence in the NHS, says Claire
As a first-year student nurse, my peers and I have been extremely shocked and disheartened at the recent news coverage of nursing care within the NHS.
I came into nursing with an open mind, wanting to be the best that I could possibly be. However, looking at the current news regarding the NHS and nursing care, it seems there is practically no good press anywhere to be seen, and the morale within the NHS and the nursing workforce is evidently in decline. Although the ongoing negativity impacts on nurses, in my experience it does not stop them from providing amazing care– this is one of the reasons I love what I do.
Being relatively new to the nursing world, I am no expert. I have been on two placements so far and I am overflowing with admiration for most of the nurses I have had the pleasure of working with.
Earlier this year, the prime minister said nurses need to give a “better level of care”. Nurses have wept with relatives over the loss of their loved ones, had restless nights worrying about how their patients will be the next morning, skipped their breaks and stayed hours beyond the end of their shift to plan patient care effectively. They have comforted and consoled relatives when they were unsure of where to turn, and made the last few months of a patient’s life as comfortable and happy as possible under very difficult circumstances. Nurses have held patients’ hands when they were terrified about operations – and so much more. If only the public really knew the extent of the care that most nurses give, and how much they try, in spite of negative stories and an unbalanced public perception. Perhaps then the public would question why the prime minister is asking nurses to be more caring.
News coverage about Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections also paints the public a misleading picture of nursing. The CQC carried out an inspection last year on a number of wards nationally; it stated that patients were “complimentary” about the treatment they received and most patients had “not expressed any concerns”. However, the stories being published in the news are negative and demoralising to all nursing staff, but particularly to optimistic, enthusiastic student nurses who see the truth behind the hospital doors and various clinical settings.
I do not deny there are some negative circumstances that arise within the NHS and I have the deepest sympathy for the families and patients who suffer as a result of these, but many positive outcomes also occur. To some extent, I believe nurses are used as a scapegoat for public catastrophes. Behind these stories, can it really be established that it’s “the nurses” who do not care?
On my last ward, the staffing levels were very low, with approximately one nurse for eight highly dependent patients. One day of my placement, a patient had a convulsion and later rapidly deteriorated. This patient instantly became the priority of the nursing staff, as they had to make sure they were given the optimum level of care possible before the emergency team arrived. These nurses also had to ensure everything else had been done for all other patients.
The government response to the Francis report considered a number of recommendations, particularly of note is the suggestion that student nurses should work as healthcare assistants for a year before they start their training with the intention of making them more caring and compassionate. This is suggestive that nurses currently aren’t caring or compassionate, something I find highly insulting. In response to this, Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “last year’s independent Willis Commission found no evidence that nursing education is failing, nor that it is associated with a decline in compassion,” and “the time has come for mandatory, legally enforceable safe staffing levels. It’s what patients need, deserve and increasingly will start to demand.”
Above all, we need to bring a sense of optimism and pride back to the NHS. Since its founding, life expectancy has risen and infant deaths have declined. We live with an unprejudiced healthcare system that caters for the needs of all our population. I urge you to share your positive experiences of the NHS, and help bring back the optimism there used to be in the system.
As nurses, we will never stop caring and we will care beyond the limits of everyone’s expectations.
Claire Docherty is a first year student nurse at De Montford University in Leicester