As the dust settles over Mid Staffs and the PM’s commission, the battle for the public perception of nursing rages on. Are you a Nurse Jackie? Or more of a Carry On? Beyond the Bedpan tries to make sense of it all, and fails miserably.
Well it’s safe to say that the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery did not pass quietly. The commission’s final report, released this week after being leaked to Nursing Times the week before, had a lot to say.
The headline-grabbing ‘nursing pledge’ did not go down well.
The government, through the nursing and political heavyweights of CNO Christine Beasley and health minister (and former nurse) Ann Keen, naturally defended their work, claiming the pledge was necessary to boost public perceptions of nursing and the wider progress of the profession.
While the debate fizzed, it was left to Unison head of nursing Gail Adams take a more moderate line. Nurses were neither ‘saints nor sinners’ she said, and the commission had succeeded in ‘sweeping away old fashioned ideas and replacing them with the reality of the highly professional nurses and midwives of today’.
The commission’s aims were true, and none could argue with the assertion that nurses should ‘champion care from the point of care to the board’.
But the issue of public perception will not go away, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Some newspapers predictably used the news to attack nurses in general while many in nursing, no doubt including the commission itself, were disappointed that it was seen as denigrating rather than empowering nurses, as it set out to.
Beyond the Bedpan, who has been known to miss the point completely, thinks the ensuing debate is a bunch of hot air. There are always will be good nurses, and there will always be isolated incidents of bad nursing. The political point-scoring simply does not affect the majority of nurses in the wards, practices and community settings, whose essential work goes on regardless.
But it is hard to make this understood, and isolated examples of sub-standard nursing, like the catalogue of care failures in Mid Staffs, will always leave a lasting imprint on the national psyche. Likewise a nurse who finishes a 12-hour shift only to read in the papers that she must try harder, is entitled to feel aggrieved.
Ms Adams sums up by saying that nurses ‘would more relate to the patient advocate role in Nurse Jackie, than to Carry on Nurse’.
For the uninitiated, Nurse Jackie is the hero of a hit US drama, heroically navigating through a sea of obsessive patients and sleazy doctors to look after her patients. The ‘Carry on’ nurse is a saucy little devil with a mean line in slapstick innuendo, who would probably be too busy throwing herself at dashing young patients to sign any pledges.
All getting a bit silly? That’s what we thought.
Keep up the good work.