Jayne looks back on her first placement and questions whether, if the need arose, she would feel able to speak out about poor care
I am just over mid-way through my first ever placement. Scrap that, I am just over mid-way through my first ever role within a care environment.
Wow, what an eye opener it has been.
But have I witnessed any poor care and, more importantly, would I feel confident to report it if I did?
During the build-up to going out on placement we were constantly assured that we could speak with mentors and link lecturers alike regarding any difficulties we may encounter on placement, including any concerns we may have relating to patient care. It bolstered our confidence, all of us imagining ourselves the sole saviours of the NHS, out to uncover even the smallest hint of malpractice with our newly opened, fresh and alert eyes.
Whilst I haven’t been witness to any abusive behaviour, I question whether I still feel comforted by the support offered by the university.
They are not with me on the ward during my 11.5 hour shifts; how would they stop the persecution I am sure would follow any complaint I made?
The ward staff are very much a team, there is a lot of camaraderie and staff nurses and HCAs appear to be very close; who wouldn’t be when you spend that much time together? Even the final year students seem to slot in, whilst the first year, first placement student stand out like a mod amongst the rockers.
Would I be willing to risk failing a placement, which would result in failing the course, to report a member of such a close knit team? Would it depend on the level of abuse I was witness to, or am I the kind of person that would just turn a blind eye?
The answer is, without a doubt, that I would.
Every morning at handover I am encouraged as a new student by the senior sister to give feedback if I feel that anything could be done differently. I have seen nurses close to retirement that still have an unlimited supply of smiles and support, despite the early starts, late finishes and the hours spent on their feet. These are the nurses that the NHS would crumble without, and these are the nurses that I believe would support a new student like myself if I ever needed it.
There have been many examples of poor care in the media in recent years and it most definitely needs to be highlighted. However, we must never forget that there are also a lot of very good nurses and HCAs, those who go the extra mile for their patient.
The Speak out Safely campaign is a great way for everyone to feel encouraged to report anything they see that they are concerned about, and will hopefully give everyone who works within the NHS the courage to do so.
Good, caring professionals have helped keep our health system alive since its creation in 1948 and this campaign can help it to carry on for hopefully another 60 plus years. Those of us who want to make it better need to stand together and be brave enough to become the voice of change.
If the abusers feel they have nowhere to hide then just maybe they will steer clear of the health profession and allow nurses to once again shine brightly.
Jayne Kendall is a first-year student nurse studying mental health nursing at London South Bank University and an SOS Student Ambassador