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Card to help nurses communicate with patients


Nurses in Worcestershire are being urged to “play their ACE card” to improve communications with patients.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is encouraging nursing staff to challenge colleagues if they feel their interaction with patients is not up to scratch, as part of a programme called Active Caring for Everyone (ACE).

It has developed ACE cards for staff, which summarise the key approaches of the programme: “connect, ask, respond and deliver”. The cards also urge staff to smile while talking to patients.

The programme is intended to ensure “every moment of contact, no matter how small, impacts on the patient experience in a positive way” at the trust’s three main hospitals.

The trust has so far trained around 300 staff in better patient communication techniques and aims to have trained a total of 3,000 by next March.

Trust director of nursing Helen Blanchard said: “Patients have told us that healthcare is great and they have a good experience here, but we could do more to communicate and engage with them. It is literally about improving interaction with patients.”

Ms Blanchard said the idea of the cards was to help staff raise concerns quietly if colleagues were not communicating well. “It helps them to reflect on their own practice and also the standards among their team,” she told Nursing Times.

Response from nurses has been very positive, she added. The trust will be evaluating outcomes from the programme, for example, by looking at whether numbers of patient complaints have changed.

It is also being trialled by other hospitals in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire area, but Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is the most advanced in its implementation.


Readers' comments (11)

  • beggars belief. there is no end of this type of stuff. Does anyone believe that it can make up for front line staffing shortages? When on earth are we going to see a reduction in management - time spent designing this type of thing we could surely sacrifice in times of financial hardship?

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  • Ha!


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  • I work on the Nurse Bank on various wards. I work really hard and always try to engage with my patients with a smile, comfort and support even if I am run off my feet!
    It does sadden me to see members of staff of all levels being miserable, snappy and unsupportive. It is hard enough not being a regular member of a team without then making it worse by handing them a card if I dont think they are doing their job properly.
    If I can see what is happening on a ward, then so should the ward manager and it should be their responsibilty that their staff are supportive, attentive caring and anticipate the needs of the patient.
    This should be done by their own observations and not depend on boxes being ticked to say the patient has been attended to or cards given out as described above.
    Nursing needs more common sense and less paperwork.

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  • there is not much point spending years training to be a nurse and gaining experience. you might just as well go on the ward with a pack of cards in your pocket and a clipboard with guidelines and tickbox checklists - armed with all those how could you possibly go wrong?

    you could also save a lot of money by waving the NMC fees as they would no longer be necessary as long as you have a nice smile!

    the NHS would save too by employing cheaper labour and the cards would not need to be of the very best plastic credit-card type quality so that savings could be made there as well, if a worker fails to smile because she has lots her reminder card she should be fined.

    oh and employers don't forget to tell them to bring their own, milk, coffee or tea and biscuits for the day just in case they are lucky enough to get a break.

    just as a small incentive, bonus points could be awarded to those who smile most during the day as long as you don't have to pay out extra for them! Those who are austere must pay a financial a penalty as a further austerity measure!

    ACE - SMILE!

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  • Ace or Joker?

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  • Nursing courtesy of McDonalds.

    Many nurses are indeed surley, but this kind of initiative is patronising to the point of absurdity. Do the managers also get cards which teach them how not to treat staff like insignificant peons.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Jun-2012 1:34 am

    for your interest, 'McDonaldization' is now now an official entry in the Oxford Dictionary!


    cards for managers are essential. for facial expressions they could be simplified to smileys. however, more detailed cards would be needed to spell out behaviour and how to speak to staff.

    I just wonder whether surliness is a personality trait rather than just intentionally unfriendly behaviour or it may be a sign of concentration?

    It always amuses me in the cheap continental gossip magazines where they seem to get bored or lack stories and photograph celebrities in a mood to fit their own stories. As soon as they snap Camilla or Charles not smiling at each other, for example, the headlines are a falling out and filing for divorce. When they are together at an event it is fairly obvious to me that neither can have a fixed smile on their face all day long (it wouldn't be very genuine if they did) and sometimes their attention is diverted so one is looking in one direction and the other in another. This is snapped by reporters with the description that they are no longer talking to each other and quite clearly do not get on. They may be reconciled the following week when they are photographed looking smiling into each others eyes with romantic story to match.

    The Queen was not spared such criticism on her trip along the Thames when the poor lady must have been very cold and very damp. However, when we see her radiant smile it obvious exudes sincere enjoyment and appreciation.

    I was once in the line up queue with the brides' family, as bridesmaid at a wedding, to shake about 200 hands and although I enjoyed it and managed to smile at everybody, boy did I have facial muscle ache afterwards!

    A lot of communication is non-verbal and others such as patients can detect if a smile is genuine or not subconsciously as it is signalled with the eyes and other facial muscles as well. a simulated smile is signalled with a curling of the lips only. Genuine smiles are often quite spontaneous and cannot be taught, even with cards although they could signal when it is time to curl your lips.

    Perhaps in addition to the smiley they need to add the words 'stretch lips now'. the art would be picking the right one out of one's pocket at the right time! We would need to pass regular assessments for proficiency in this!

    I would suggest that a module during training on the psychology of interpersonal relationships in sickness and health is far more useful, if not essential, and give a sound knowledge base for skills to develop with experience than a set of cards and guesswork.

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  • I wonder how many people were involved in this card to smile invention and how long did this project took also the cost in wages and other facilites.
    Has any one of these people involved asked why these nurses are being like this?
    Could it be they are overworked, the weather, the unsupportive managers etc.
    Was a proper study done into the cause before jumping to design the cards to smile.
    Please stop wasting time and money, and stop believing that we are children in a playgroup. Instead if you have extra time on your hands please take the tea trolley around, help some one to the toilet, talk to a patient , help feed a patient. I am sure that you will find the stressed out nurse smile then.

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  • Laughable
    Really lost for words on this one.
    Another insult to the professionals of healthcare in UK
    From Melbourne Downunder.

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  • Yvonne

    if you are lost for words maybe the cards would be useful!

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