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'Never give up the fight to shape patient care'


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how nurses tend to always be in the firing line - with the public only too eager to criticise the profession for anything from donning red tabards to daring to open a bottle of sauvignon blanc on a weekend off.

But they’re not the only ones doing nursing down - nurses are pretty good at that themselves. Now I know it’s not panto season, but I can hear you all booing and hissing from here. But only one look at reveals how much nurses like to engage in (ahem) heated debates - sometimes crossing the boundaries of respectful argument to hammer home a vitriolic point.

But it’s not just online, from behind the laptop shield, that nurses are inflicting harm to each other.

A senior nurse recently told me about a group of modern matrons who had been feeling ignored by their senior managers. Having made several suggestions to improve care, all of which had been rejected, they decided to put up and shut up, never again approaching their bosses with recommendations, in the process, creating a culture that deterred their staff from doing that too.

A key part of nurses’ jobs should be political awareness. Nurses need to understand the “business” of health, appreciating the politics at work within their organisation and honing their skills in influencing that machine to improve care.

Political influence isn’t just about arguing for pay and pensions - though those are vital issues - it is also about challenging practice and bringing an evidence base to support the case. And of course, possessing the skill to make employers listen to those arguments - and act on them. It may be hard to keep putting your head above the parapet and asking why, but it’s in the job description.

Editor direct
Chat live with the editor and other nurses about this issue at on Wednesday September 21 at 1pm.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I absolutely agree with you about the strange culture within Nursing that leads us to snipe each other rather than support each other, I've never understood it.

    However, whilst I'm all for putting our heads above the parapet Jenni (as you probably know from my other posts), and I always urge others to as well, I can partly understand why many don't, because quite frankly doing so often paints a huge target on your back. I've felt the effects of that personally, and it isn't nice!

    But it IS about time our profession threw off the traditional shackles. The old culture Nurses have had to endure in the workplace has to go. Things are changing, the profession is changing, and quite frankly the old culture of bitching, doing each other down and putting your heads in the sand is no longer acceptable, and neither are the excuses from the old guard 'well it will never change, it has always been that way' or whatever.

    WE are the ones who are responsible for looking after our patients, WE are the ones who are professionally and morally obliged to advocate for them, and quite frankly if WE demand that a situation change, or safe staffing levels put in place etc, then who the hell are management, the government or anyone else non clinical for that matter to tell us it will never happen?
    We are a highly educated, qualified and skilled workforce, we are a KEY profession (you know, one of the public service professions that no civilised country can do without), so why the hell do we put up with pay, conditions, status and a lack of respect that a school leaver on minimum wage would get angry about? The medical profession understands this paradigm, they get it instinctively, perhaps because of the status and power they have historically enjoyed, they look after each other and have real political clout to demand clinical change for their patients, they enjoy pay, conditions and status that befits a profession like theirs. It is about time we started acting like that too. The Nursing profession has grown up, it is about time we grew up with it.

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  • There is far more to being a nurse than simply turning up for work to look after patients, it has taken me years to figure that one out.

    The Profession of Registered Nurse carries with it the burden and the protection of an Act of Parliament - this makes us political whether we like it or not.

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  • "one look at reveals how much nurses like to engage in (ahem) heated debates - sometimes crossing the boundaries of respectful argument,"

    @ jenni, actually, i find the temerature of debate rather lukewarm, especially considering how passionate nurses say they are about their profession. academic debate is obviously more skeptical and nit-picking, and lay readership of general science forums are far more personal in their attacks. anonymity does provide a cloak for less considered and straight from the heart comment, but, whilst you may be who you say you are, "mike" could be an a.i. programme commissioned by nt to stir up debate for all i know. let us celebrate lightly moderated, lively and anonymous debate!

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