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Practice comment

"Humanity, respect and dignity are the foundations of practice"


Focusing care on what is important to individuals as human beings enables us to understand and more fully appreciate a person’s personal experience of ill health, enabling us to have a better understanding of how to support them.

This will help to ensure a dignified and respectful approach to care; focused on treating others how we would wish to be treated.

The draft education outcomes framework published this summer by Health Education England includes an outcome focusing on NHS values and behaviour. Staff need to ensure that they behave at all times in accordance with the NHS constitution. The key elements of this constitution include “respect and dignity” where we value each person as an individual, respect their aspirations and commitments in life, and seek to understand their priorities, needs, abilities and limits. We take what others have to say seriously. And act with “compassion” where we respond with humanity and kindness to each person’s pain, distress, anxiety or need. We search for the things we can do, however small, to give comfort and relieve suffering. We do not wait to be asked, because we care.

Achieving the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards for pre-registration nursing education are a joint responsibility involving university nursing departments and placement provider organisations. It is crucial to have a shared underlying philosophy for the programmes in theory and practice. I would argue that central to this should be a joint commitment to humanising values as a vital influence on education and practice.

It is essential that nurses who act as mentors and educators are role models in learning from and listening to those they are caring for.

Mentors can demonstrate a nursing philosophy that shows understanding the experiences and views of those we care for is essential to enable us to undertake care humanely, with respect and dignity. As mentors we take on responsibility for the next generation of nurses and how we treat each other needs to demonstrate our philosophy in action. Indeed, ultimately, as mentors, we need to consider when assessing students, would we be happy for this person to care for us or our loved ones at our time of greatest need?

In caring environments, which are exposed to continuous change and reorganisation, mentors and students must demonstrate a clear philosophy focused on caring for human beings with respect and dignity. This is imperative to ensure we abide by the NHS constitution and offer patient-centred care. This philosophy needs to be integrated across the taught and practice programme for students and be demonstrated and assessed in practice.

We are the ones upon whom the responsibility for upholding the standards of care rests. Humanity, respect and dignity must be the foundations for our practice with those we care for, those we work with and those we mentor.

Ann Hemingway is senior lecturer public health at School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • michael stone

    'The key elements of this constitution include “respect and dignity” where we value each person as an individual, respect their aspirations and commitments in life, and seek to understand their priorities, needs, abilities and limits. We take what others have to say seriously.'

    We take what others have to say seriously

    Hmnn - it strikes me that this message has not necessarily got across to every nurse who posts on the NT 'site: some seem to believe 'anyone who isn't a clinician cannot have a valid or informative view' ?

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  • I work in A&E.

    Respect is a two way process.

    When patients, their friends and relatives stop abusing and threatening me and my colleagues with violence I will be able, perhaps treat to them with dignity and respect,

    Until that happens I will have to continue to consider the safety and well being of myself and my colleagues ! That includes having a zero tolerance to inappropriate behaviour as displayed by drunken drug fuelled and violent people.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Oct-2012 4:35 am

    A&E is an unusual enviroment, because as you point out behaviour can be fuelled by drugs and drunkenness.

    Do you think the image NT chose, was of A&E ? And the thing about zero tolerance, is that it works both ways.

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