Nurses are not always perfect. But neither is the profession broken. That’s the message that came out from the chief nursing officer for England’s summit last week. (See pages 2 and 3 for news from the summit.)
The event, which attracted over 450 senior nurses from academic, provider and commissioning roles, was focused around how to deliver excellence. A key theme that emerged was that in order to deliver excellence you must first recognise when you don’t deliver - and learn from that experience.
One delegate at a seminar I hosted on the Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign said when NHS staff raise concerns many managers try to discredit them or focus on disproving their concerns.In fact, of course the right thing to do is to investigate the situation objectively and own the improvement.
Nurse and now chief executive of South Tees Foundation Trust Tricia Hart echoed this when she took to the stage in the plenary sessions with Robert Francis QC to talk about complaints. She admitted that in her career she had not always been nice, and asked others to acknowledge that they had also shown compassion lapses.
The greatest thing about last week was the groundswell of opinion from senior nurses that they can change things for the better to support their staff to deliver excellent care
It was fantastic to hear senior nurses acknowledging how hard it is to maintain a compassionate outlook every moment of every shift. Now we must ensure they create environments that support nurses and recharge their emotional (and physical) batteries.
For far too long, nursing has taken the brunt of criticism of the NHS. This summit should enable senior nurses to find a voice, identify what the profession needs and prove how much better care can be when nursing is listened to and resourced properly.
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice, started this off by demanding nurses were trained ready for general practice.
He is right - if the long-promised shift to caring in the community is to happen, we need the right nurses in place to deliver it.
While the issue of nurse ratios on hospital wards has at last moved up the agenda, we must not forget that there are too few nurses in the community. And these will be the real gamechangers in our new health landscape.
The greatest thing about last week was the groundswell of opinion from senior nurses that they can change things for the better to support their nurses to deliver excellent care. Let’s not lose that motivation for change. Let’s not lose that admission that Francis reminds us that the profession must alter. More crucially, let’s not lose sight of how vital nursing is to the provision of healthcare services.
Jenni Middleton, editor
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