There have been many times – nurse Isabel Amaro in the Bawa-Garba case is the most recent example – when nurses have berated their profession for not standing together and not standing up for each other when the chips are down.
While the doctors rallied around in support of Dr Bawa-Garba, not many in the profession stood up for the nurse who was also struck off and given a criminal conviction.
But this week, nurses did all speak with one voice – and it was all thanks to a GP.
In case you missed it, Dr Una Coales tweeted on Sunday: “A #nhs #nurse with MSc is not the same as a #Juniordoctor with a medical degree and #MRCP. Don’t let @Jeremy_Hunt replace real #doctors with glorified nurses doing the job of ST3 #juniordoctors.”
The tweet was a sort of Helen of Troy tweet – it unleashed a thousand replies. Nurses and doctors tweeted to Dr Coales, admonishing her for her shameful remarks about nursing and nurses with an MSc.
A personal favourite of mine was a tweet from David Melia, executive director of nursing and deputy chief executive at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
He said: “I’m not a glorified nurse – I’m a FABULOUS nurse! Hang your head in shame for trying to make a political point by kicking another profession. You may want to work on your communication skills, ask a nurse in the morning, they’ll give you a few tips.”
Even the chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings, who doesn’t usually get involved in cases of such public nurse bashing, waded in to call the comments “misguided”.
And Mark Radford, NHS Improvement’s director of nursing (improvement) said he was “appalled at the rhetoric” used by the doctor.
Dr Coales is a media dream because she has publicly revealed some pretty controversial views in the past – she once encouraged gay junior doctors to act “less overtly gay” to pass their medical exams.
Her views have made her something of a “shock doc”, and she was definitely making a political point about the health and social care secretary’s workforce agenda with her remarks. But it was a low blow to defend her own profession by attacking another.
Dr Coales’ suggestion that a nurse with an MSc isn’t the same as a doctor with a medical degree is correct. They don’t have the same training, and their knowledge is therefore not the same. But in many cases, nurses’ knowledge will be greater than that of their junior medical colleagues.
Nurses do have a set of skills and expertise that makes them an invaluable part of the team caring for patients, and I don’t think many of the junior doctors I have met would disagree that they often depend on nurses for wisdom.
Nurses’ wealth of experience in caring for patients and being with patients more than any other health professional – often 24/7 – means they have a unique insight. Most medics want to listen to and trust their opinions.
What is most outrageous about Dr Coales’ comment is the suggestion that nurses are “glorified” by increasing their qualifications, knowledge and skills. Dr Coales should be encouraging her colleagues – from any profession – to enhance their competence levels and develop their command of their practice. This is the best way to provide safer, more quality-driven patient care.
Dr Coales should spend a day on a shift with a nurse – in a GP practice, in a hospital ward or in the community, and witness the complex caseloads that nurses manage and the critical decision-making they are responsible for every day.
Then maybe she would stop regarding them as a doctor’s handmaiden or a political football that can be used to score a point with the secretary of state.