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'I’m surprised the CNO hasn’t been made the biscuit monitor'


I took my daughter to a zoo last week. I’m not comfortable in zoos. I think the animals are looking at me.

Specifically, I mean animals like the monkeys and the big cats and definitely some deer.

I think they look at me and think: “We don’t choose to be in here you know. In fact this whole experience of being locked up and stared at is quite oppressive”. And they may defecate as some sort of protest.

I feel guilty every time I go to a zoo. But my daughter loves animals and, while she also has issues with the whole keeping elephants in captivity thing, we do find zoos educational. Of course, we may be wrong.

We were standing near the giraffes. Weird things, giraffes. I honestly believe that if you think too deeply about them for too long you will fall over. Anyway we were standing there trying not to think about them when we heard a woman, while pointing at them, say to her two children in a voice full of excitement, certainty and absolutely no sarcasm: “Look kids, over there - zebras!”

My daughter glanced at me and I whispered that perhaps the zebras were hiding behind the giraffes. But they weren’t. “Her children won’t know what giraffes are,” whispered Maia. “Do something.” But what should one do? Do you want to be the sort of person who makes a parent look silly in front of their children by saying, “No, they are giraffes; a zebra is a stripy horse. That is a long-necked gangly… non-horse. Easy mistake to make though.” No of course you don’t. “It’s none of our business,” I muttered. “It’s everybody’s business,” said Maia, which made me feel very middle aged. Anyway my point - insofar as I have one - is that sometimes it’s hard to know what to say for risk of offending someone. That and, if you think zebras are long-necked, leaf-eating spotty mammals, you are wrong.

But back to offending people: Nursing Times recently reported that the current Department of Health review may see the senior nursing role downgraded (news, page 2, 16 August). This would mean that, in future, whoever were in this position would not only have to report to one of five director generals rather than the permanent secretary, but they’d also have to sit on one of the hard chairs.

Now, personally, I have never been that excited by the chief nursing officer role, it being a civil service post rather than a political one. It is not the role of the CNO to develop policy but, rather, to try to ease governmental policy decisions into reality. Where that post sits doesn’t much matter in itself does it? Unless that is the symbolism of value that nursing wants - to sit at the “top table” but not have power. Isn’t that a bit patronising?

Surely the fact that nurses have had their pay frozen, their pensions reduced and their priorities ignored is symbol enough of how they are valued by government? Moving the civil servant who is responsible for nursing to a smaller office is at least an honest reflection of nursing’s place in government thinking isn’t it? Frankly, given the respect ordinary nurses are being afforded, I’m surprised the CNO post has not been downgraded to a little light dusting and keeping an eye on the biscuits.

I would prefer to see nursing fight for substantial influence, power, positive change and better services rather than a largely bureaucratic symbol of respect the profession is not afforded. Illusory power for power’s sake just papers over the cracks. If nursing wants to fight for itself there are more important things to focus on than the role of the CNO.


Readers' comments (12)

  • Hmm, I agreed with you on everything right up till your end point, Mark.

    You may have read one or two of my rants, so you may be aware that I am a strong advocate for fighting for the profession. I believe strongly that Nurses should strike and demand better pay, better working conditions, better status and more respect and much better levels of patient care.

    However, I believe that fighting the keep the role of the CNO is a very important part of that. Apart from the fact that it is a blatant slur against our whole profession and shows how little we are regarded, it goes much deeper than that. I agree that up till now - mostly because of the ineffectual people occupying the post - the role has been useless. However, imagine if instead of being the governments whipping boy, there to ease whatever moronic legislation the government dreams up into practice, we had someone with a backbone and a gob in the post of CNO, someone who would have that substantial influence and power, someone who would MAKE and force through positive changes to our profession and to patient care. Then the CNO would be a very different beast altogether wouldn't it? Wouldn't it be worth keeping then?

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  • Oh, and the animals are staring at you, they are accusing you, they are saying it is all your fault they are locked up! Why, Mark? Why?


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  • Big Sis is watching your every move and hanging on your every pearl of wisdom (this time from Zürich Zoo).

    What comes next? We need advice on how to climb to the top and break out of our cage.

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  • I hate to say it, but until nurses are prepared to stand up for themselves and exercise the power their position gives them then they deserve to be exploited.

    If you don't want to strike then simply work to rule. Yes there will be patient detriment in the short term but this will be balanced by longer term advantages for all.

    The government repeatedly kicks nurses because nurses have repeatedly shown the government that they are an easy target that is hugely unlikely to turn around and bite back.

    How do you climb to the top and break out of your cage? Grow a spine, stand up on two feet, accept that any change is going to cause problems for somebody and get on with it.

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  • "How do you climb to the top and break out of your cage? Grow a spine, stand up on two feet, accept that any change is going to cause problems for somebody and get on with it."

    I was actually referring to Mark's articles! I don't need to grow a spine nor do I have any problems with initiating and accepting change thanks.

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  • They would never trust the CNO with the biscuits!

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  • Anonymous | 30-Aug-2011 3:29 pm Hear hear! I totally agree! There are far too many people in this profession who are too willing to bend over and take whatever is given to us. Is it any wonder we are in such a piss poor condition as a profession? Lowly paid, not respected, no status, constantly attacked. It IS about time the profession stood up and bit back! And not accepting the loss of our most senior position is only a part of that!

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  • mike | 31-Aug-2011 11:19 am

    with the language you use it is likely that the profession will stay in that position. some of your points are valid but might carry more weight if expressed in a more professional way.

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  • Anonymous 31-aug-2011 12:35 pm

    Well said

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  • Why is it that instead of joining a conversation or offering constructive feedback, nurses are too willing to criticise and batter each other? I see so much energy put into this at work and on here that it breaks my heart to watch the impact, not just on colleagues individually, but teams and patients.
    How are we to trust or care for each other and be a community if we are consistently poking each other with sharp sticks?
    There was an article in the Telegraph yesterday that basically trashed nurses for not caring. I don't want to be part of a profession that is seen like that because the people who are demonstrating that go unchallenged. I want my colleagues and the public to see that those people are being challenged because it is unacceptable behaviour whilst hoping they are supported to behave otherwise.
    There are too many examples of teams getting to the point of mid staffs or airedale or castlebeck, where good people are ground down into submission or leave. These situations start small with sharp sticks but only grow if unchallenged.
    This is the how we will gain that substantial influence, because we have shown that we have earned it, not because we have fought and won a hollow victory.

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