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'Forget PR – just take notice of those already centre stage'


I have promised myself that over the next 10 years I am going to learn some new skills. Car maintenance for one, as I need to be sure I will not confuse oil with screen wash.

Also a foreign language, because I am deeply embarrassed by the fact that I cannot speak avec le people from other countries without resorting to bad mime or pointing. And maybe the trumpet - because if I find myself living in a care home I think it would be quite funny.

I often look at my skill set and see a big empty box. Sure, I can juggle a football endlessly and I can reach things from high shelves without the help of a stepladder - but does that make me the Renaissance man I long dreamed of being?

Maybe I need a public relations firm to transform my image or “rebrand” me. “Mark is renowned for his creative approach to windscreen management,” they might say, or “Mark’s passion for the English language prevents him from wasting syllables on words that are a bit French.”

PR is the modern way, apparently - or at least it is if you do something unimportant for a living.

Apparently, the European Union has a Foreign Office and it is run by Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Who knew there was a place called Upholland, let alone that it required a baroness? Anyway, it seems that her office has had a bad year because people think they have been a

bit on the quiet side about important international events in Haiti, Tunisia and Egypt. She is hiring a PR firm to change their image at a cost of £8m. Spending cuts, eh?

This sort of investment in PR is missing from nursing. Yet, in the wake of the report of the health service ombudsman and the recurrent disclosures of bad care, do you wonder what we can do to repair some of the damage done to the image of nursing? Or, to put it another way: what are we going to do to make sure that the best of nursing, the underpinning of ongoing resilience and the courage of nursing are clearly seen again by an uncertain public?

Obviously the most important thing is to nurse well. Nurses never go unseen. A patient notices everything about their nurse from their manner to their mood. Families watch and reflect on whatever they see.

Being a nurse is like being the centre of a documentary on care every time you put on your uniform - and that is a remarkable responsibility.

But, as many a nurse has said over the years, it only takes one person to nurse poorly and 1,000 wonderful shifts are placed in the shade. We are drawn to the bad far more than we are to the brilliant. Nowadays, ours is a profoundly critical culture.

A student said to me recently that the best thing that happened to her in the first year was when a staff nurse she really admired thanked her for the work she had done one day and told her she had done well.

Maybe it really is as simple as that? Maybe - in the absence of a PR campaign or a wave of sympathy for the public services - we just need to see and appreciate the best in each other?

Such simplicity may seem naive or old fashioned in these days of PR, but noticing good care and spreading a more appreciative culture seems, to me, to be a good place to start.

And anyway, if nobody else wants to see the good being done, we surely need to record it ourselves.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Right Mark, all well and good, but where does the simplicity lead us?
    It may make those actually providing good care feel better in the moment and maybe carry that home with them. Then a lead news story of: pensions (how to get rid of them for Public sector workers why do they need one); redundancy (we don't need qualified staff to run the NHS); and wage cuts (even if we do need some qualified staff, let's not pay them a decent wage); smacks them in the face like a wet kipper as the Government spin their PR of reform for the benefit of the deficit, created by a Government for the bankers. (Sorry about the long sentence there)

    I am not sure saying thanks and well done will change the air of despondency, frustration and anger this current Government is creating in the NHS.

    Well done, and good work for pointing out that there is a spare 8 million knocking around for a Baroness of Upholland near Skelmersdale, Lancashire, to have a hairdo and her talons clipped.

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  • I don't think that the small things like 'well dones' and 'thankyou's' change the wrecking balls from the current government for example, but what I think they will do is build and cohese our relationships with each other, and the confidence and compassion to care well. Hopefully that unity and community will serve to provide robust challenge and swerve to said wrecking balls as well.

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  • Hello anonymous 1; I agree and am not suggesting that being kind to each other and trying ot engender a bit of decency in the face of this assault is the only thing to do. I just think that we probably, among other things, need to try to look after each other.
    Hello anonymous 2: yes I agree.
    And thank you both for chatting :-)

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