The 6Cs – the words selected by Jane Cummings, the chief nursing officer for England, to articulate nurses’ values in response to a spate of care scandals – seem to divide the profession as much as unified it.
While some have defended them, built initiatives and even written songs about them, others feel they oversimplify the skillset required by nursing.
That division was the motivation behind a debate at London Southbank University last week. This first debate, which organisers hope will become a series on issues affecting the profession, argued whether the 6Cs could improve care. The audience agreed that the words were right. All patients and service users should be treated with care and compassion, and nurses should exhibit courage, communication skills, competence and commitment.
“But the simplicity of the 6Cs is the thing that raises antibodies in some of their opponents”
I don’t think any of us would argue with that. But the simplicity of the 6Cs is the thing that raises antibodies in some of their opponents. Stella Backhouse, a blogger and prolific tweeter under the handle @grumblingA, thought that distilling nursing down to something as simple as six words misrepresents the com- plexity and skill involved in nursing.
The debate saw people support the 6Cs as advocated by both Juliet Beal, NHS England’s director of nursing for quality, improvement and care, and Sue Hartley, director of nursing at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. Meanwhile, many agreed with Tony Butterworth CBE, who spoke against the principle of 6Cs because he felt that, while they were “nice words”, they did little to support those working in overstretched and challenged organisations.
“Nursing is, like real life, not black and white”
Blindly following the 6Cs, or blanket refusal to recognise their existence are both questionable approaches. Instead, nurses should think critically about whether they can add value to practice, or if they need to be moved on.
What isn’t helpful, as Professor Butterworth expressed, is being treated like “a devil man” because you are a non-believer. Nor is it right to claim that if nurses have been inspired by the 6Cs and introduced initiatives to improve care as a result that it is a bad thing.
Nursing is, like real life, not black and white. It needs to debate, question, reflect and challenge. The 6Cs were not and should never be regarded as a one size fits all. If the profession is going to deliver person-centred care, then nurses too must be treated as individuals and be free to explore that.
Jenni Middleton, editor
Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed