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“All nurse leaders must build learning cultures”

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The case of the nurse who was bullied out of her job after raising concerns (page 2) proves that Sir Robert Francis QC’s review into whistleblowing is very much needed.

And it is needed in both the NHS and private organisations, as this case concerned a nurse working for a private provider.

Bad news, difficult situations and challenge from staff are still all too often met with an immediate rush to cover up the problem.

Employees who raise concerns are often a tenacious group - they will fight for their patients, and that takes diligence. So instead of seeking to silence them or drive them out of the organisation, managers should celebrate these individuals who do not accept sub-standard care, but want to achieve the best possible standards.

Managers should start investigations into what’s going wrong in their organisations, and truly build a learning culture.

People make mistakes. They make more when they’re unmotivated, uninspired and unclear about their goals. They cover those mistakes up when they are afraid of the consequences, and that means no one ever learns from them.

That’s why it’s so good to see Sue Smith, executive chief nurse at University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, standing up for what’s right and standing up for her nurses (page 6).

The trust has been heavily criticised since concerns were raised about the maternity unit following death such as that of baby Joshua Titcombe, and last week it was put into special measures after a damning CQC report. But Ms Smith isn’t hiding in the shadows, refusing to admit the trust’s failings, she is trying to learn from them. She’s speaking out on behalf of nurses, she’s correcting things that need putting right, she’s being visible - but more than all that, she’s acknowledging that mistakes have been made.

This is the sort of nursing leadership all organisations need. Someone who will speak the truth, however, hard that may be. Someone who will celebrate their nurses when they get things right, and be critical yet supportive when they need to improve. Someone who has the courage to do the difficult things.

It is not just ward nurses who need to exhibit courage and compassion - those qualities are equally important in nurse leaders. Staff need inspiring role models like Ms Smith. The recent NT Leaders event proves we have these people in the profession. As student nurse and poet Molly Case would say, now let us hear them “god damn roar”.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed

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