Congratulations to Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer of the NHS Commissioning Board appointed in March, for quickly realising the image and morale of nursing needed to be improved urgently.
Well done for mobilising the senior nursing troops in her meeting of 50 chief nurses last week and finding out what needs to happen, as we reported.
One job I’d put on the to-do list is ensuring that nursing gains the respect of other health professions. While I’m working with the judges on the Patient Safety, Care Integration and Nursing Times Awards, I hear plenty of examples of good practice where teams in all settings achieve the common goal of providing better experiences and outcomes for patients. The entries we receive and presentations we see during judging are clear evidence that nursing has come a long way since the days when all nurses did was take direction from doctors, nod and smile.
Now nursing has a voice, its own agenda – and patient care is improved because of it.
But, sadly, I still hear of nurses who are ignored by consultants, GPs who ride roughshod over concerns raised by practice nurses and healthcare assistants, and doctors who are rude and dismissive of nurses in meetings and, catastrophically, on the wards.
It’s little wonder that the public often fails to respect the nursing profession when so many of those working with nurses don’t acknowledge their strengths, abilities and skill sets.
Yes, the national media plays its part in laying the blame for every problem at the feet of nursing. But does the profession actually speak up for itself? Are nurses so accustomed to being ignored, blamed and marginalised at work that they lack the confidence to speak up about the national picture?
I had an email from a patient recently, singing the praises of a practice nurse who had diagnosed her pulmonary embolism, which a string of other health professionals had missed. For every bad example, there are far, far more examples of excellent care.
Nursing has made and will continue to make great advances – reducing healthcare-associated infections, improving access to care and treatment for people with long-term conditions, and advocating for patients, carers and relatives.
As the healthcare landscape shifts, this is no time to sit in the shadows. If nurses don’t stand up and shout from the rooftops about all the good that nursing does, who will?