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Nurses must 'reclaim' professional image


Nurses need to ‘reclaim’ their professional image to counter concerns about poor care, according to a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery.

Chelsea and Westminster Foundation Trust chief executive Heather Lawrence started her career in nursing and is one of the 20 members of the commission.

At an event to update her hospital trust’s staff on the commission’s work, Ms Lawrence said many of its discussions had focussed on complaints about nursing that had been highlighted by the Patients Association.

The way nurses communicated with patients and relatives was often the subject of such complaints, she said.

Referring to one of the commission’s aims to build a “vibrant public image” for nurses, Ms Lawrence said: “It’s about reclaiming what people say about us.

“The image problem is what ruins it for us. It needs to be seen as an attractive profession to come into compared to other careers.”

Another theme being addressed by the commission is the need to tackle poor performance. Ms Lawrence said instead of waiting for annual appraisals, nurses must ask for feedback “every few months”.

There was a particular need to change the “attitude” of some nurses regarding sickness absence. She said: “Every time someone has had a day off sick, the manager should see them and say ‘what can I do to make it easier for you to stay at work?’”

Nurses attending the event said they were unsure about a statement in the commission’s draft vision, published in October, which referred to the profession as “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”.

One group of nurses said they were “totally divided” over whether nurses should be described as ordinary.

Another said: “Anyone who decides to work in the public sector isn’t ordinary by any stretch of the imagination”.

However there was general agreement with the statement: “High quality care involves using heads, hands and hearts”.

Ms Lawrence’s comments came on the same day that concerns were raised about the state of nursing care and infection control procedures at the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

The Care Quality Commission and foundation trust regulator Monitor highlightedlack of basic nursing skills, with failure to feed patients or give medication correctly, among a range of concerns at the trust.

In August the Patients Association published in its “Patients not Numbers, People not statistics” report – based on accounts from 16 patients.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Martin Gray

    At last a move away from the current 'debate' about nursing needing to be a degree-entry profession to bring it in line with others (meaning, esseentially, the medical profession).
    Nursing lost its' professional status not through the level of education but through the poor basic care being provided nowadays. Now, before you all start getting on at me about such things don't happen in your hospital, reflect and can you honestly say you know EVERY ward? Every nurse and how they work when unsupervised?

    I'm not a manager, nor do I work on the wards any more due to disability. But I DO read the paper, the nursing press, and listen to media reports. What does come up is the complaints of poor care, lack of hygiene, and deaths because of poor management at all levels.

    Care is NOT the responsibility of the hospital management, they don't physically look after patients,but that of the nursing staff at all levels. The modern matron was a post created to stop thisd but, like so many other idesa, has proved pointless as they are not allowed to do their job with enough autonomy. They are, however, ultimately accountable. Were matrons rounds a bad thing? No I don't believe so; they ensured the wards were clean and patients had an opportunity to voicce their opinions and concerns. That just doesn't happen any longer and, sadly, it is when complaints are made they do not appear to be acted upon with the vigour that is required.

    I agree with this experienced nurse; she may be old school but has hi the nail on the head. So, to all those academics and pro- academic advocates I say 'get off your high horses and deal with the problem from the ground up and STOP harping on about the educational level of entry into our profession'.

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  • 3 4th year nursing students I know are considering leaving the profession to work in shops. Why? They are working in places where they are newly qualified and in charge of 55 patients with no other qualified staff nurses and need to work equipment they don't know how to use for palliative care purposes e.g complex pumps. Managers refuse to give them appropriate training to use such equipment and inform these new staff nurses that if they refuse they will be held accountable for whatever happens. These nurses in question are terrified about the amount of responsibility that have suddenly been put upon their shoulders with apparently no support. How would you keep nurses like this in the profession?

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  • Can we please not have any visible tattoos? I wish employers would not hire people with 'skin art,' especially the kind that signifies gang affiliation or religious preference.

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  • I am a mature student nurse who trained in the 80's but did not persue a nursing career, i am about to complete my nursing degree 25 years later! Training has changed dramatically and HCA's are now responsible form much of the basic nursing care. However qualified nurses remain responsible for ensuring this care is appropriate and can identify deterioration in patients condition. The training which is being advocated for HCA's will help support qualified nurses in ensuring HCA's are able to identify problem areas and report back, however this training will take several years before any substancial effects are seen. I have encountered many qualified nurses who complain about the levels of paperwork nursing now entails to the detriment of hands on nursing care. Many nurses complete continung care documentation at home , against policy and regulations in order to provide hands on care. Until the level of paperwork is addressed, complaints and newspaper reports of inadequate care will continue,and nurses will be put in a
    position where hands on care or completing paperwork remain a dilema.

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