When Lynsey witnessed her daughter receiving poor care in hospital, she turned to her university for support and found it invaluable
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.” Martin Luther King, 1963
As nurses, do we do live by this? Can we live by this? I say the answer is ‘yes’, but that it is not without fear.
The culture of the NHS is not conducive to telling the truth. As student nurses, we may have seen or heard of qualified nurses being frightened to speak out against bad practice, and this makes us feel even more fearful.
We hear stories of students being failed on placement after speaking out against bad practice and wonder if they are true. We ask ourselves: “Will I get a job if I whistleblow?”
I’ve been lucky. As a student nurse, I’ve had excellent placements and great support, but have always felt confident that if I needed help, the university would be there for me.
I have heard fellow students say that the University of Salford is supportive of students who raise concerns and I always thought that I would speak out if I had any on placement. The Nursing and Midwifery Council say it’s my duty and it’s right that I do so.
So when, at the end of second year, my daughter needed emergency surgery I found myself in a quandary.
There was terrible practice on the unit. I sat quietly next to my daughter’s bedside and watched.
I was shocked.
My daughter’s care was not what it should be and I knew it. I was in fear of saying anything as I was frightened as a parent that the nursing staff would treat my daughter in a different way if I spoke out.
Once she was discharged, I was still frightened of complaining. This was my local children’s unit and if any of my children get unwell again, that’s where we’d need to take them. What if I complained and then got a placement on there? Or went for a job? What if the nurses were just having a bad day?
I thought my position to be untenable and worried by myself.
The week after being discharged my daughter became unwell again and I rang our GP. I came off the phone and my little girl broke down in tears, begging me not to send her back to the hospital as the nurse was nasty to her and she was scared of going back. I told her the doctor said she didn’t need to go back and comforted her, shocked that she saw things this way.
What had I done, I thought? At 8 years old, I didn’t realise she was able to recognise poor care. My decision was then easy. Yes, I had my fears but compared to the fear I saw in her, they were outweighed in spades.
I didn’t immediately contact the hospital, I went instead to the university. I wrote an account and sent it to a couple of lecturers who supported me to write a logical, rationalised complaint to the hospital. They allayed my fears, and made me realise I could speak out, without suffering any ramifications.
I can’t allow what happened to my daughter to happen to anyone else’s children. I want to be able to tell her that yes, what happened to her was terrible but tell her that I have done something to stop it.
What sort of mother would I be if I didn’t speak out? What sort of nurse will I make if I can’t speak out? I found my courage through my daughter. I found support in my university.
Lead the way Nursing Times! #SpeakOutSafely #MakeThingsBetter
Lynsey Hamer is a third year student nurse at University of Salford and an SOS Student Ambassador