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'CNO has work cut out in restoring respect'


The chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, probably has the hardest job of any incoming CNO.

Morale at an all-time low, and a seemingly endless stream of reports about poor care, cuts, attacks on pensions and pay freezes is pouring in. Really, could she have more of an uphill struggle?

Despite this, her exclusive interview with us on page 4 reveals an unshakeable belief that she can enthuse the profession to have pride in itself once again, and confidence that she can restore the public’s faith in nursing.

That is some task. What she thinks will help her achieve it is instilling core values, which she calls the five Cs: care; compassion; communication; commitment; and courage. She is working with the director of nursing for public health, Professor Viv Bennett, on this new vision, which they believe will improve outcomes, patient experience, staff experience and public engagement.

These issues are all important and deserve attention. Compassion is difficult if nurses feel constantly emotionally drained and exhausted. Excellent care will never be offered if nurses are too afraid to speak up to chief executives about the need for more staff on the night shift. Nurses can never commit to change and make a difference if no one listens to them or values their input.

Both Ms Cummings and Professor Bennett know they must create a nursing narrative, one that is clear about the massive contribution of nursing from birth to death and every moment in between. Nurses can keep you well, stop you getting sicker, cure you or look after you at the end of your life. The role is diverse and fulfilling – but would anyone ever believe that, looking at national press coverage?

It will take more than fine words on a flip chart to convince people that nursing is a profession worth joining and that every day can be a life-affirming experience.

The first step – as England’s two most senior nurses know – is to ensure that nurses believe that and are proud to reveal their job title to the public instead of hiding it away.

Time was when telling someone you were a nurse was met with admiration and respect, and those times need to be reborn. Ms Cummings and Professor Bennett need to make a difference for nurses so they can make a difference for patients, the public and themselves. Let’s hope they stand up for nursing as government policy and cuts remould the health landscape. The courage isn’t needed just at the front line – it’s needed in the corridors of Whitehall too.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Anonymous

    'Nurses can never commit to change and make a difference if no one listens to them or values their input.'

    This has been commented on in another piece, very recently.

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  • 'CNO has work cut out in restoring respect'. Yes she does, when in particular she recently refused to see a link between understaffing and lack of care. Im afraid shes just another Goverment poodle.

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  • I am in admiration and have great respect for the vision, pride and improved satisfaction as well as outcomes of patients Jane Cummings has in her new stratergy, It is however nurses who need to speak up and show the pride they have in their unique role in caring for the sick. How many people can say they resuscitated a patient transported to the Emergency Department who was in their last few seconds of life on earth, or assist a family in coping with the loss of a loved one when all else fails , I have been a nurse for 36 years I am still active in nursing and today work over 60 hours a week caring for the sick and injured , I remain proud of my profession, and I work with a group of Doctors and allied health care workers who value my opinion, and input. I am one of those administrators who also works on the wards and units and I listen and understand the conditions we allhave to put up with, and support my nurses. I believe the 5c's are what we should all be working and striding towards. More than once during my career I have been unpopular when I stated staffing was substandard, and stood firm for patients rights, was I popular NO, did I have the courage to do what was right YES, NURSING in the UK need a voice, people and nurses also need the voice of courage to stand up for their profession, and their patients
    I am proud to say I am a nurse, I am proud to say today I made a diference in peoples lives of all ages
    After all one day we will all be patients and looking to a nurse to be our voice in our vunerability

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  • tinkerbell

    Thomas Ellison | 25-Jul-2012 8:45 pm

    Well said.

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  • more than pride, I consider looking after the sick and serving fellow human beings a great privilege not experienced in many other professions or jobs. the scope and variety this work provides to impact on the lives of others and for personal fulfilment is almost limitless.

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  • Have to agree with Thomas Ellison on this. One of the best feelings is having a pint bought for you by a stranger with the words 'Thanks, redpaddys11, you saved my Dads life 2 years ago', makes up for a lot of the other crap, but it's why we're over a barrell now as the powers that be know that the vast majority of nurses will carry on DESPITE the pay and conditions, not because, for the simple joy of knowing that you have had the opportunity to bring light into peoples lives.

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  • Thomas Ellison
    Disagree with you about the new CNO tho!

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