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'When nurses have respect, care is better'


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?


Readers' comments (13)

  • Anonymous

    '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.'

    She needs to be congratulated for realising that - really ? You honestly think it was a challenge, to work that out ?

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  • On most of the wards I've worked, the worst offender has been the manager. Bad behaviour from health care assistants was a mirror of the managers. One manager turned the HCAS into spies. They would send her texts regarding our performance. Between them, they ran the ward. You could not change any bad practices or Improve things. The manager accepted any good feedback. Trained nurses got stuck with the complaints.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Jul-2012 12:55 pm

    it is the role of managers to set standards with good example and they should be neutral towards all their staff without personal preferences for one group or person over another in the workplace. the behaviour you outline above is toxic as it cannot and never will foster good and productive working relations and this impacts on the standards of care and attitudes towards patients and colleagues. It is abnormal, and unacceptable behaviour which should be exposed.

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  • I agree that it is primarily the responsibility of Mangers and senior clinicians to set a good example. At one time I would not have believed that a manager would '' set up'' HCA'S as spies but I do believe it.
    My Manager has an inappropriatley close friendship with one of my Band 5 colleagues. And I suspect she has various HCA'S who report back to her. I had suspected this but finally realised it when , shortly before coming to work in the area I met the pair of them at our local gym talking about the ward and staff quite openly and loud enough for me to hear. This causes huge problems in terms of leaking of confidential information and our Band 6 Sister is on the verge of leaving her job as a result. She is almost excluded by our Manager. And often important, confidential information is leaked to the Band 5 Nurse who simply cannot help herself as she invariably leaks it out. I am also an experienced Band 5. This Band 5 Nurse spent a disprportionate amount of time seemingly be-friending me and helping me settle in. Fortunatley I had worked in the area before and knew that this Nurse was the Managers '' spy'' so I was prepared for it. I am strong enough and experienced enough to cope with this. However I never feel '' safe''. My Manager has known me for years and knows how direct I am . However I have to say that I would be most unwilling to go to my Manager if I had a problem as she discusses information with this indiscreet Nurse.
    I struggle to respect my Manager due to this. And I firmly believe it sets a poor example to all of us.
    Fortunatley our Band 6 Sister has alerted our Matron of the issue so I know the issue is in hand.
    So yes where has the respect for one another gone ???
    I a sense I feel I'm being disrespectful writing this .

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  • Anonymous | 19-Jul-2012 7:29 am

    sadly the scenarios you describe can happen anywhere where people are working together. I have witnessed it to in several work places and those who refuse to get involved are those who remain at the bottom of the career pile doing most of the more meaningful work but at least we know we are true to our patients and the rest of our colleagues.

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  • AGree with "Ima bit dim but"..entirely

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  • in reply to
    Anonymous | 18-Jul-2012 12:55 pm

    I have been there too, in the District. It was a nightmare. And with a Manager who was a bully to add to her other behaviors, well it wasn't a healthy place to work and in the end I left.

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  • Darek Moore

    This is so true, This usually happens everyday I guess, there's always situation like this in every hospitals, where they do not really know how much hard work we give to be perfect in this profession, sadly they are in the top position so they think they are superior to us, which is not right...

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  • Darek Moore | 21-Jul-2012 2:23 am

    position power versus knowledge power?

    Seven Types of Power in the Workplace

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  • I'm really rather puzzled. The sarcastic and unhelpful comments about what Jane Cummings has said does not exactly fill me with confidence that we can achieve any kind of change in image.

    Bullying and bad behaviour is something I have seen right through the hierachy, from the DH to Directors of Nursing and then of course filtering down the chain.

    By standing up and talking openly about our image, Jane is taking a very brave step. It might not be anything new and we might all know this, but actually shouting out about it and trying to create a change in culture, especially at her level, is potentially risky as it will involve challenging at that level too.

    Potentially career limiting or potentially a great leader in the making. If you really want things to change, get behind Jane and what she is trying to do.

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