So I’ve been the editor of Nursing Times for a whole week, and it’s been a pretty eventful one.
First up, was press day, which brought some interesting insights from my news team about the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria being found in hospital sinks, which the Department of Health has set up a working group to look into. Infection control in hospitals is clearly an issue that hits the headlines more times than Katie Price, so it’s imperative that nurses and all healthcare professionals seek to eradicate the cause. The latest thinking is that it’s a design fault with taps. Clearly, we’ll keep you posted here at Nursing Times.
Monday brought in a host of talented teams to our offices in London, as the final category of our Nursing Times Awards was judged – Team of the Year. It gave me a chance to chat to some of the luminaries on the judging panel – Gail Adams of Unison, which is sponsoring this category, Mandie Sunderland of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Firas Sarhan of Bucks New University, as well as meet the outstanding teams.
Team is an interesting one because everything nurses do is about teamwork, and having the skills to collaborate, communicate and seamlessly handle patient care from one department to another or one nurse to another is essential. We saw plenty of those skills in evidence in our boardroom on Monday, and the judges had a tough time picking a winner. From seeing all the entrants together, you could see that they were respectful of each other but enjoyed great camaraderie, and that those relationships had delivered great innovation and, most importantly, improvements in their patients’ experiences, staff morale and clinical outcomes. My lips are sealed about the results until November 3, but if you want to know who scoops this trophy and all 13 others, you’ve got to book your ticket to the Nursing Times Awards at the Hilton in Park Lane on November 3. See nursingtimesawards.co.uk for details.
Yesterday I headed up to the Cancer Care Congress at Manchester, organised skilfully by emap networks by Nursing Times with our sister magazine Health Service Journal.
Much of the buzz was about the White Paper, its impact on GPs, nurses and all of the healthcare profession, but also on refreshing the Cancer Reform Strategy. While Professor Mike Richards of the Department of Health applauded the cancer care community for having reduced wait times, increased screening and improved patient experience, he still said change was needed to stop the UK lagging behind the rest of Europe in terms of mortality rate. He urged professionals to introduce rehabilitation packages that included diet and exercise post-treatment for cancers such as breast cancer, where he said such activity had drastically improved the quality of life and recovery of patients.
Of course, the debate did not take long to get onto GP commissioning and the White Paper. With the focus on outcomes, Richards said that the delegates had to start thinking about that instead. “If a clinical nurse specialist in a cancer ward or unit can improve patient experience, then let’s incentivise teams and trusts that exhibit that improvement in quality that comes after employing that post,” he said.
Positive thinking was on the mind of Patrick Ladbury of the National Social Marketing Centre. He was about to use the services of a nurse imminently, as his wife was due to give birth to their fourth child, but fortunately that didn’t happen while he was on stage so he managed to make all of his points. His lively presentation indicated how you had to change behaviours with marketing. Ladbury pointed to the Swine Flu ad that encouraged people to use a tissue when sneezing, and said that if this had been issued on the Metro paper on the London underground and given away with antibacterial handrub or tissues, the product would have broken down the barrier to change, and the marketing message would have been stronger.
He said marketing must break down those barriers, and pointed to a car seat for children drive among certain Hispanic communities in South America. There, women tended to carry their children on their laps instead of strapped in seats because they felt it was safer, and also that God would decide when to take their children. The campaign got around this by inviting a priest to bless the car seats. And in Odenplan in Sweden, 66% more people used the stairs rather than the escalator on the underground transportation system after Volkswagen sponsored an event that turned the steps into musical notes, which played as passengers walked on them. When using the steps became more fun, people sacrificed the ease of the escalator.
Ladbury’s message is that information and products alone are not enough – you must understand why people behave why they do, and then break down the barrier.
A delegate in an earlier session on breast cancer detection presented by Professor Amanda Rimez of King’s College London proved this point beautifully. She said she had enlisted the help of her local hairdressers to talk to women about breast cancer. “They may not ask their GP for advice, but if they’re reading Heat and talking about Jade Goody, the hairdresser can educate them about the signs,” she said. “After all, what woman doesn’t go to the hairdresser – and when they do, they tell them everything.”
Finding the way to communicate to your patients is becoming a lateral thinking job. And it’s more than just putting up a poster. There’s a lesson for us media types in there too.
Finally, a very happy birthday to our extremely talented and hardworking deputy online editor Victoria Thompson. Many happy returns Vic.
Thanks for taking the time to read
Jenni Middleton, editor, Nursing Times