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.