Mary is a sister on a surgical ward. She was told a few months ago that theatres no longer have staff to escort patients back to the ward after 5pm, so ward nurses now have to collect them. Mary only has four staff on a late shift and queried how they will manage, but the business manager said there is no alternative. On the first evening of the new system two nurses went off on escort, buzzers started ringing and a patient complained about having to wait 15 minutes for a bedpan. A problem solved in theatre created a new one on the ward.
Does this sound familiar? We work in silos, one directorate competing with another for resources. Solving a problem in one area often means it is just pushed onto another service - and all too often nurses are expected to absorb change and get on with it. These artificial boundaries create systems that may work well for the organisation but are not always best for patients.
Like Mary, many nurses have no part in decision-making processes that directly impact on patient care and I wonder if anyone ever measures the ripple effect of change on other wards, departments and services.
We talk a lot about patient stories informing care. I would argue that nurses’ experiences are powerful too. You are at the front line and witnessing day to day the positive and negative effects of changes in services.
So my New Year wish it is that nurses’ stories become part of the quality agenda. I am not talking about staff satisfaction surveys but the actual words you use to describe what happens to you and your patients. Your voices must be listened to because ultimately you see and know what matters to and works for patients. Your voices coupled with patient voices are a powerful force and should be used to shape services for the better.