I think we need to talk about money.
I know a lot of nurses don’t like to speak about cold hard cash. It’s a dirty word - and I am sympathetic to that view. In my early career, journalists never mentioned money either. We thought it was like sex or haemorrhoids - something you know happens but you really shouldn’t be seen speaking about. Now it’s a different story - editors have to be as mindful of the bottom line as they do their headlines.
There was a time when nursing was just about caring - providing the best environment, treatment and outcomes for patients. Other people thought about the money - usually just before cutting it or debating where to spend it. But the world has changed, and efficiency savings being impressed upon staff make everyone concerned about waste.
Redesigning services will be the real opportunity for getting the NHS back to black, and that’s where an understanding of the numbers will play its part. At the Nursing Times Awards last week, nurses proved how vital they are to improving outcomes - and saving money - through their initiatives. Those who did well could show the sustainability and tangible value of their schemes.
To ensure you are heard by your managers, you’ll need a grasp of the balance sheet and to understand how much every district nurse visit, hospital overnight stay or missed appointment costs. Often a detached look at how a process works can lead to improvements and savings - as our awards winners proved.
You don’t need to become a calculator-obsessive. Your main focus has to be the patient - but finances do play a huge part in the care you provide. So be as hands-on with your spreadsheets as you are the bedsheets to make a real difference.
Finally, congratulations to our winners at the Nursing Times Awards. We salute you. Read all about them at nursingtimes.net/awards2011
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Chat live with the editor and other nurses at nursingtimes.net every Wednesday at 1pm about this column.