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'Stop the nurse bashing and recognise the heroes'


If the Olympic committee is looking for new sports that Britain could excel at in London 2012, they’d do well to consider nurse bashing.

I reckon it’s something that many Britons could get a podium place for.

Last week’s Daily Mail “exposé” of the do not disturb tabards at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust unleashed the latest round of sound and fury

Many things bother me about this story -. first, it’s not news but something that many hospitals have been trying out for a while. In addition, it’s intended to improve patient safety. Imagine the headlines if a nurse made a drug error - if you’re a nurse, it seems you can’t win.

The issue of the tabards is a thorny one - there are arguments for and against them. But one thing we are all united on is that the perception of nurses is generally poor - and unjustly so.

Why, as a nation, must we concentrate on the bad apples, always looking for horror stories about nursing?

It’s not as if there is any shortage of good nursing stories - such as the heroic nurses in Libya, or, 10 years after September 11, the nurses who saved hundreds of lives in New York on that awful day. Closer to home, this year’s Nursing Times Awards show there are hundreds of outstanding nursing doing exceptional work.

I’ve interviewed two nurses who helped those injured in the World Trade Center attacks. Both maintain that, while the experience changed them, it confirmed exactly why they became nurses. What they saw was horrific and, despite facing danger, they carried on.

These are not the “stupid” or “uncaring” nurses we are led to believe populate the profession. And, if compassion became an Olympic sport, I’m pretty sure nurses could take on all comers and clinch gold, despite what the media would have us believe.



Readers' comments (45)

  • The Daily Mail is a filthy rag full of venom, spite and hatred on so many counts; not just for nurses, but many other section sof society too! However, it seems to particularly delight in denigrating nurses and nursing. I wish people wouldn't buy the damn thing; or if they do, use it instead of Andrex because that's all it is fit for.

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  • Peter it isn't just the Mail though is it, it is the Telegraph, numerous TV 'programmes', a wholly disrespectful and ungrateful general public perception ...

    I agree with Jenni, this is getting beyond a joke and quite frankly I am getting really sick and tired of it. I do not think however, that just carrying on as we are and celebrating the quite frankly 'heroic' to use Jenni's term work that we do is enough any more.

    It is about time everyone, from the general public to the media and the government, starts showing our profession the respect it deserves.

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  • What is the RCN doing about all this bad press to defend the profession?

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  • Anonymous | 6-Sep-2011 3:45 pm two words, sod all. Two more, as usual.

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  • Peter Thompson | 6-Sep-2011 1:40 pm

    come on what about hygiene? you would get patients coming in with all sorts of nasty complaints if it was used it to replace Andrex!

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  • Anonymous | 6-Sep-2011 8:16 pm

    We are getting totally off the subject, but you are not old enough to remember newspaper cut up and threaded on string in the 'bog' at the bottom of your garden...not in a hospital I agree. Just thought I'd enlighten you to times in the lifetime of a nurse still young enough to practice. That comment was for information only, not to spark off a debate.

    We need to stop blaming the press, the government, the RCN, the NMC for the public perception, but celebrate good practice and put our efforts into being heard in a positive light. Use your local radio, press, etc. We don't have to rely on them to do it for us. We are not supplying what is being read at the moment. Celebraties do it, so it can be done. Nurses should be celebraties in their own right.

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  • Anonymous | 6-Sep-2011 11:52 pm whilst I agree in principle, I really do, I have to disagree in practical terms as this is already happening, and IT DOESN'T WORK!!! Just look at the stories of the Nurses in NYC at 9/11, or the programme on 'super nurses' (I think it is called that or something similar) about MacMillan Nurses; ignored by the vast majority of the mainstream media and shunted off to some godforsaken timeslot on TV. The work of Nurses in Haiti, or the Sudan, or any other disaster zone or trouble spot, how about the minor miracles we perform every day in keeping the NHS running? All ignored! Nurses all over the country quite frankly perform miracles on a daily basis, we all know the fantastic work we do in extremely challenging circumstances, we have been doing it for a long, long time. If it was as simple as simply celebrating that just by virtue of us doing the job, then we would all be getting parades to celebrate our achievements daily! The media just do not care about the good stories; all the good we do is wiped out by horror stories that are 99% of the time down to the NHS culture, not Nurses. But we are the easy scapegoat aren't we because we all too often keep quiet and hope our good work will speak for itself. The good stories alone are not enough to combat the bile that is coming from the mass media and the general public. We need to stop turning the other cheek and hoping that the good jobs we do will be picked up by the mass media and transform the public perception of us into a tidal wave of goodwill. It won't. We need to be much more ready to fight fire with fire. If the general public want to blame us for the failings of the NHS, then we need to remind them that without us they would get no decent care at all and they should be more bloody grateful if they want to keep receiving it! If these patient groups start moaning that they are getting offended again because Nurses are trying to improve safety standards with tabards on med rounds, then they should be told in no uncertain terms to be quiet because concentration equals patient safety and that trumps their delicate sensibilities. If Nurses get blamed for lack of care on the wards we need a strong and sustained campaign turning that anger back on the general public and reminding them that it is the bloody governments/trusts fault for not putting enough of us out there and putting the blame exactly where it belongs! In short, we need to be less understanding in the face of such unjustified criticism.

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  • Hmm...

    Celebrate the good things nurses do, force the public to see how professional we are.. yet 70% of us accordingto NT don't even bother to hav ethe flu jab-which is free- to protect ourselves and our patients.

    We really are own worst enemies

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  • For the record, a nurse, Marianne Barthelmy-Kaufmann jointly with a doctor, Rolf Maibach, who had retired from practice in Switzerland, won the Swiss Award of the Year 2010 in the category 'Society' for their services at the Albert Schweizer Hospital in Haiti, following the last earthquake.

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    Why has there been no response from the RCN? Does this mean that they, and especially Mr. Carter, condone all the negative press on the profession, and nurses in general?

    Although you can contact the President of the United States of America and many other celebrities by e-mail, it appears that the chief of the RCN is too important as I failed to find it anywhere on the RCN website, but only a Twitter address which is of no use for my purpose. I wished to ensure Mr. Carter had seen the articles last week in DT by Ms Odone and those in the Mail and ask for some feedback. I don't think a few uninformed journalists, or anyone else, should be allowed to walk all over us. Whether it matters or not what the general public thinks (as we know ourselves how good or bad we are), negative attitude towards the whole profession, influenced by the media, is highly contagious among a gullible readership.

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