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Are you a saint, or a sinner?


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’.

Public pressure

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.

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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.


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Readers' comments (10)

  • Definitely a Nurse Jackie...i thhink if i wasn't i'd go completely mad...people take things far too seriously. Nurse Jackie is geniously written and VERY close to the bone, I suggest all nurses watch it!

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  • is that before we all get locked up ? or whilst appearing for our court appearance

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  • Has a second year student nurse i hope i will be a saint or at least a nurse Jackie i live in
    the real world and sometimes this stinks . But if was not for people like us there would not be a caring group of people who come into this profression,Because we are devoted to our jobs and the people we care for and that is the first and formost reason we do the jobs we do, All nurses should not be tarred with same brush on my first placement i met a nurse and if i can be half the nurse they are i know i will do well so some times we need to focous on good and not the negative or people like me and my fellow students may has well give up

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  • Looking after after patients has little to do with level of training (deg or dip) for sure, it is driven by targets and dealing with the baby boom that are going to cost the nation a fortune. We have to be seen to treat, but in reality it is not with the best treatment, it is with the best cheapest treatment. Wake up to the realities of what you are being lured into, I beg you, see the truth.

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  • Maureen Clancy

    On what planet is Ms Adams'? Am I the only person who sees what is really going on with Nurse Jackie? She is an active drug addict who is stealing drugs and working "under the influence" while caring for patients. Not the kind of "heroine" or role model for nurses. I have just started at a new Residential Rehab for Healthcare Professionals with Addictions and these are the kinds of situations that nurses in particular face so often. Because they are such "nice caring and lovable" people; when they need help, they can't ask for it. Peers make excuses and allowances even though they know of or suspect the addiction. When the "cat's out the bag", does the nurse get help, no way. Usually it's down the disaplinary road and a good nurses' career is ruined. Their peers all talk about how they suspected, but colluded. So think again when you ask "are you a saint or sinner". We are only human.

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  • Last week I was called a D###head by a relative. Just today a relative shouted at me that "it wasn't ffing good enough that his wife was abit longer in recovery than he ahd been told she would be. I work on a T+O unit which also deals with elective ortho patients. I'm now going to apply to recovery,so that I don't have to with relatives anymore. The general public have no respect for nurses and even my inlaws believe that we are to blame for the downfall of the NHS because of our "ridiculous wage demands". I am completely demoralised and wish I could afford to leave nursing. I know i'm not the only one.

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  • No you're not above. sounds horrible. hope it gets better for you

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  • and I'm neither a saint nor sinner as painted. are there any options for something other than polarising into stereotypes?

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  • I just noticed -
    ' 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'.
    Sounds more like - We(the judges) can see what's wrong and we're going to make you promise not to do it again because you're all to blame (the nurses), whilst We will take no responsibility whatsoever for the state of affairs and offer no acknowlegement to make any changes to improve the current state of affairs. This will improve the public perception of nursing and take the profession forward, we think!!

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  • There is good and bad in all walks of life, and probably a little bit of Nurse Jackie, Barbara Windsor, No Angels etc in all of us nurses. We are entering a new phase in nursing which is sometimes a bit confusing for all of us, the general public included. It's hard isnt it, trying to manage peoples unrealistic expectations, whilst providing a professional service in dire financial circumstances.These are hard times.

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