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Nurses need to know when they get it right, as well as when they get it wrong

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We have just finished about a week and a half of judging for the Nursing Times Awards. It makes everyone in the office happy to have it flooded with nurses for those few days.

Firstly, everyone feels much safer as the nurses’ skills at coping with any office paper cut or trip or fall will far outweigh the expertise of our first aiders (sorry, office first aid team).

And secondly, the nurses are just so positive. It is an energy that I wish I could bottle and send to Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May and label it up “this has got to be worth more than 1%”.

For those of you who have not been through the process, our judging panels of experts first whittle down the entrants in each category by looking at their online entries. 

“Many of the nurses who enter our Nursing Times Awards just think they are doing their jobs and do not make a fuss.”

Following that, the finalists come into our office to be grilled in person on what they have done, the impact it has had and why they deserve to win.

Our finalists turn up pretty nervous, but leave pretty pleased and proud of themselves. I was struck by something one judge told me. “She was a nurse doing a really good job,” she said. “She just needed to be told by us that she was. What a shame she had to come here to know that. What a shame she doesn’t know that every day.”

It is a shame. Because many of the nurses who enter our Nursing Times Awards – and many who do not even consider it – just think they are doing their jobs and do not make a fuss. Literally their attitude is there is nothing to see here, so move along.

I wonder – during the current climate of pressure, under-resourcing and stress – how many nurses are having their daily good work unrecognised and not even commented on? How can we embed good practice and nurture skills in our nursing workforce if we do not reinforce when we see things done well?

“People entering the profession need to feel they are getting it right, as well as needing to know when they are getting it wrong.”

I do not blame managers if they do not have time to say “well done” or remark on seeing a good bit of nursing or even an exceptional episode of care.

But I worry that it has become common to just accept that nurses will just get on with it, without a word of appreciation and acknowledgement that their jobs are difficult, and require real skill.

People entering the profession need to feel they are getting it right, as well as needing to know when they are getting it wrong. Do we have time in this overstretched health landscape to explain when something is right or wrong, or have a chance to reflect and make it better?

There are a lot of unintended consequences of this nursing workforce crisis, and one of them is the fact that we have no time to nurture, enthuse, inspire and grow nursing talent at a time when we desperately need it.

I hope every one of those nurses that came into our office for the awards judging knows they do extraordinary work. But I hope that nurses take the opportunity to tell their peers and colleagues not just when they are getting it wrong – but when they are getting it right.

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