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‘We must do more to enable care and compassion’

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Let’s never undermine the importance of clinical skill and expertise in nursing, but also, let’s never play down the essential values and ethics that nurses must exhibit in their practice.

A stay in hospital, a trip to the GP practice or living in a care home can be transformed by the impact of a nurse. A kindly word, doing the right thing, and touching someone at the right time and in the right way, can make a huge difference to a person who feels sick and vulnerable. 

A report published by the University of Birmingham surveyed around 700 students and experienced professionals who had been in practice for fi ve years. It found that 83% of the experienced nurses reported serious challenges in staying true to their moral character and values due to the demands on their time.

Respondents said that, although they went into the profession because it was a vocation and they wanted to care for patients, they felt inhibited by staff shortages, bed management and admin tasks – all of which stopped them spending the necessary time with patients.

“The one thing that prevents you from being the nurse you want to be is the time pressures, the workload. Sometimes the clinical written standards are more important than the personal,” said one experienced nurse interviewed for the study.

Nurses also revealed how helping people maintain their health, supporting vulnerable patients from minority groups and caring for families was their motivation for entering the profession. However, more than one in eight nurses warned they faced barriers to working in a caring and compassionate manner due to the pressures in the NHS. Such views were backed up last month by a report from the Royal College of Nursing.

”It’s not a lack of knowledge or desire to do the right thing that stops nurses being compassionate”

In a survey of 30,000 frontline staff, 55% of respondents said shifts did not have the level of nurses planned and 53% said that shortages were compromising care. The RCN said trusts must “urgently” examine whether they had enough nursing staff to provide safe care.

If we want nurses to care and be compassionate, it’s no good sticking up a load of posters telling them to do it, we must create environments where they are able to do so. It’s not a lack of knowledge or desire to do the right thing that stops nurses being compassionate – it’s their place of work.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The best nurses who looked after me and my family were the most compassionate. They were just wow and they really made us feel better


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