Staff who are compassionate to each other are more compassionate to patients.
That’s clear from much evidence on the subject and it was one that was stated clearly at the Patient Safety Congress in Manchester last week.
Neil Churchill, director of patient experience at NHS England, stated that patients told them lots of times that they wanted staff to be happy. No one ever wants to be operated on by an unhappy surgeon, was the point he was making.
But the point I raised while chairing a session with him is that this often gets talked about at conferences and events, but then never embedded deeply within an organisation’s culture as a priority. A&E waiting times are targeted, hospital-acquired pressure ulcers are measured, falls are counted, hospital-acquired infections are monitored and so on – but although the annual NHS staff survey looks into morale, do we really keep as close an eye on this as we do all the other competing priorities? Do we really care about caring for our staff?
”Do we really care about caring for our staff?”
NHS Employers does some good work in this area, but those in charge of boards have so many other issues to discuss, each with a more grave financial penalty attached, that it stands to reason that chief executives and board members may overlook how happy their staff are, as long as the organisation is doing well in all other areas.
However, it’s time we recognised that staff being unhappy leads to absenteeism, less motivation, higher turnover and lesser performance. Get it right for your staff, and you’ll get it right for your patients.
I think the reason that organisations don’t get this right isn’t just that there are lots of other areas management has to scrutinise and perform well on – I think that nurses and clinicians feel somehow it’s selfish to think about yourself. In any healthcare setting, you are there to care for others, and to put yourself before them in any way feels, somehow, well just wrong.
”You simply can not care for others well if you are fatigued, demotivated and literally destroyed by every shift”
This is a mindset that the NHS and other health organisations have to eradicate. You simply can not care for others well if you are fatigued, demotivated and literally destroyed by every shift. If you want to bring your best to work, you have to be at your best. And it is your employer who must ensure that happens.
What programmes are in place to support you in delivering your best at work? When was the last time your employer had the time to ask you what they could do to look after you? Do you feel empowered enough to ask for some help to do your best? It’s time nurses led the march to demand better working conditions and enhanced support. Because without it, it is patients who will suffer.