Would you share crockery and cutlery with your patients?
The jailing of two nurses and four healthcare support working for the abuse of patients with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View hospital raises questions about why nurses fail to treat their patients as they would like to be treated themselves.
In a recent article in Nursing Times Steve Mee suggests that for people to be treated so badly they must first be “othered” . Othering is evident in ways that are unconscious. Steve suggests most of us engage in this hidden othering using the following example:
“Four people who have been resettled from a long-stay institution live in a house, with 24-hour support from a staff team. The staff are well organised. They keep a set of staff cups in a high cupboard. In a lower cupboard, there are client cups, which are cheaper and older than the staff cups. There is a dishwasher in the house and no one who lives there has a communicable disease.”
Can nurses claim to value the people they support if they are not prepared to share crockery? If they share with other staff but not patients/clients, this is othering in practice. The use of a dishwasher ensures that there is no health threat, so why does this practice persist? If a patient/client has a communicable disease, they should have separate crockery from everyone else, not only staff.
Steve comments “As a manager of support services, I once challenged a group of staff about not sharing cups. One member of the team summed up his feelings by saying: “I don’t know why, but I just don’t fancy using the same cups as the clients.” This suggests that there is no rational reason for this practice, it just does not feel right to him. This justification sits at an unconscious level and is worthy of further discussion”.