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'We can learn from sharing our experiences and successes'

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It was Sir Winston Churchill who said: “The further back you can look, the further forward you are likely to see.”

For me, the year since my CNO Summit in November 2013 has been shaped by my experiences as a nurse, professional lead, patient and someone whose family members have needed care. More than 30 years since qualifying as a nurse, I have never stopped learning from my own and others’ experiences.

The quality of the experience of care was brought home on a personal level this year with the death of Mo, my mother-in-law, who was the last close link to my late husband. I am grateful to the care team, who respected and supported her wishes to stay at home for as long as possible and, when needed, provided compassionate care in hospital before her death. They also supported and cared for me.

Every week I have the privilege of meeting nurses, midwives, students and other healthcare workers. I also meet Care Makers, a growing movement of people from all levels and disciplines seeking to example the 6Cs as a real and natural part of our work and life experience. These meetings are a direct opportunity to learn from others’ experiences, celebrate the commitment and focus demonstrated by our professions every day in a wide range of environments, and listen to any concerns. I know many people are working under significant pressure but are still committed to delivering compassionate care.

In recent months, I have been humbled and moved by a number of experiences.

I attended a gathering of retired Caribbean nurses, many of whom worked in the NHS in its early days. Their dedication, commitment and care helped to shape the legacy that is our experience in 2014. However, the meeting also showed how much further there is still to go in championing opportunities and equality for black and minority ethnic staff, particularly at a senior level.

I was challenged and encouraged by meeting a group of people with learning disabilities, exploring what it means for them to work with us as active partners. This is vital if we are to really learn true and personal lessons from Winterbourne View. This brings to mind a quote by Maureen Bisognano, the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, who says it’s not “what’s the matter?” It’s “what matters to you?”

The year has also been shaped by nursing developments at a national level. For example, in the summer we published ward level staffing data in one place for the first time. This openness and transparency benefits us all and is the beginning of a process that will develop further with different metrics, taking a holistic approach to staffing.

We are now at the two-year point since the Compassion in Practice strategy was launched. The strategy’s development was fuelled by listening to staff and patients’ experiences, and I am encouraged that take-up continues. Some trusts are reviewing their whole approach in line with it.

One of the ways in which experiences and successes are shared is through 6Cs in Action: Celebrating Excellence (previously Story of the Month), which is housed on the 6Cs Live! website and shows how different experiences can become examples to learn from. At the CNO Summit, we will have the first Compassion in Practice Awards, which will be a celebration of the great work being done across England.

What makes an experience what it is, and more than a mere happening, is the ability and willingness to step back, reflect, look at it from different angles and let it develop you by making it part of you. This year has undoubtedly brought its tests, but we are stronger by sharing and joining our experiences together.

Jane Cummings is chief nursing officer for England

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