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'It’s time to start looking after nurses to boost care'


Robert Francis QC is not a man to pull his punches and in an interview with Nursing Times this week explains why he thinks nursing needs to take his report on Mid Staffordshire more “seriously”.

His views are likely to ruffle feathers, especially among those charged with representing the profession. However, his beef is not with individual nurses, many of whom he says “get the point”. Rather, he feels nursing as a whole needs to “strengthen its voice” - something that it has almost certainly needed to do for a while.

Like Mr Francis, I absolutely believe most nurses do “get the point”. For example, last month I listened to a debate at RCN Congress where nurses discussed how they could show the public they cared in the wake of the barrage of negative media reports that have dogged nursing in recent times.

A clearly emotional Kathy Moore, from the RCN’s East Dorset branch, said: “Rightly these issues have been publicised and should not be hidden away. We must do something now and we must show the public we really do care.”
Ms Moore admitted she did not necessarily have the answer on how to achieve this, but maybe others do?

On May Day I listened to the director of the National Nursing Research Unit, Jill Maben, give a fascinating lecture on nursing and compassion, which inevitably touched on Mid Staffordshire.

Nurses continue to work in exceptionally challenging physical and emotional environments often without adequate support and safeguards

Professor Maben admitted that she had temporarily given up nursing herself after being left alone to deal with a violent and confused male patient in a hospital ward, not long after qualifying.

She also talked at length about how research showed that where nurse wellbeing was supported, better patient outcomes resulted.

Where wards and teams are continually understaffed and under pressure, nurses’ ability to care becomes eroded - not because they lack compassion but because they are sometimes too exhausted even to smile, Professor Maben said.

And, as we reported last month, research in the US has shown that hospitals certified as nurse-friendly by the American Nurses Association - so-called “Magnet” hospitals - have better patient outcomes than other hospitals.

The evidence is mounting, but UK nurses continue to work in exceptionally challenging physical and emotional environments often without adequate support and safeguards.

The message seems simple enough to me. Show compassion to nurses and they will show compassion to patients.

Steve Ford, news editor Follow me on Twitter @SteveJFord

● Jenni Middleton is on holiday


Readers' comments (13)

  • tinkerbell

    I agree, it is a chain reaction. Cared for nurses care better. We are receivers and transmitters, we can give back what we are given.

    A wise, young ward sister, once told me when i was a student nurse, 'if we can't look after each other how can we look after anyone else'.

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  • I don't go to congress due to the constant whining about how to show people we care. Its simple. Why would someone go through the punishing training (degree/clinical placement/lack of money etc etc), start on salaries that in no way reflect our professional status (and stay on them), stand there like aunt sally and just collectively take the drubbing from management/media/government for something that a few individuals did? Why would we regularly work unpaid overtime, work without a break, have no redress against spurious and vexatious allegations, no redress against aggressive and often violent patients, pay for our own CPD, exhaust ourselves, etc etc etc if we didn't care?
    The reason we went into nursing was because we cared. We wanted to 'look after/help people.' Not work in advertising/marketing/accountancy/management where we could have reaped the benefits.
    More fool us. As they don't, and never will care for us.

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  • tinkerbell

    i agree and you can continue to care even if you feel uncared for but it doesn't need to be and shouldn't be that way, i feel we should all try to help and support one another in what is a very demanding job, both physically and emotionally. We are only made of flesh and bone too.

    We are all living, breathing, feeling humans who need to know that we are making a difference and helping others, otherwise what's the point, but it would be nice if we extended that care and compassion to one another as colleagues too. Where i use to work we regularly gave each other a pat on the back and said 'well done you'. The culture of looking after one another needs to be encouraged.

    Group hug anyone? Although I have quite a large personal space, I have learned to allow more people into it as i have grown older.

    One of our secretaries left today to work elsewhere, she is a bright, bubbly person and we all wished her well but as i said to her it's a shame we never get the praise or compliments for a job well done until we are leaving or dead, lets all try giving each other some positive input whilst we are all still working together. It makes life much more pleasant,

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  • How about this?

    In a Readers' Digest Survey of 12 European countries in which the UK unfortunately did not feature, the following was found on popularity of people in various job groups:

    In Switzerland, firefighters topped the league with a 92 percent approval rating


    and pilots.

    However, languishing at the bottom of the table were footballers, car salesman


    Swiss politicians were trusted by only 19 percent of those surveyed.

    The Reader’s Digest study “European Trusted Brands 2013” surveyed 18,000 citizens in 12 EU countries

    The 5 most trusted professions (average across all countries):

    The three columns of figures are:

    A great deal
    Quite a lot

    Fire-fighters 51% 41% 92%
    Airline pilots 36% 51% 86%
    Nurses 27% 55% 82%
    Pharmacists 21% 59% 80%
    Doctors 20% 56% 76%

    The 5 least trusted professions (average across all countries):

    Not much Not at all Total

    Politicians 37% 52% 90%
    Car salesmen 58% 21% 79%
    Football players 42% 34% 76%
    Financial advisors 56% 18% 74%
    Trade union leaders 45% 29% 74%

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  • Totally agree #happynurseshappypatients....although it is kind of obvious!! Just look at John Lewis for an example of an engaged workforce!

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  • Alyx Peters | 17-May-2013 10:20 am

    I am sure John Lewis would be a far better business model and example (if this is what we have to have) than the others which have been cited such as Macdos, Starbucks, Virgin, EasyJet and Prêt à Manger to name but a few.

    Incidentally, as Branson dressed up and worked as a trolley dolly on an aircraft for one day perhaps he could further broaden his experience by coming to nurse for one day as well.

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  • tinkerbell

    this week we have all been provided with T shirts to wear that say
    'Customer Care Charter ...............
    we will be informative and engaged' whatever the heck that means.

    Just look at me being informative and engaged??????

    They are all extra large so one size fits all.

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  • tinkerbell | 17-May-2013 8:02 pm

    perhaps it was a typo for 'engaging'


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  • tinkerbell

    Yes, I was 'engaging' with a lovely old gentleman the other day during his assessment and he said to me 'your hair looks a mess'. He was right of course as i had been thinking the very same myself. I asked him what he thought i should do with it and he said 'get it thinned out'. I was having a bad hair day that particular day as it was very windy and i had the wind swept look. I wonder if this new customer charter means we will all need to be air brushed.

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  • your don't just look after nurses to boost care. they are not goods to be maintained or animals to be flogged. you look after nurses first and foremost because they are valued sentient human beings and happen to work hard for the benefits of others. looking after and respecting them will enhance their well being and their ability to provide good care.

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