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The ability to recognise care is your most valuable asset

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Understanding what care really means to your staff will benefit them and, ultimately, lead to improved patient outcomes

I am a practising nurse and a clinical/professional lead for a large IV therapy service within Liverpool Community Health Trust. As community staff we have extraordinary and privileged roles and are often involved with families from birth through to death.

Patients discharged into our service may have deep-seated infections or complex conditions requiring blood and platelet transfusions. This may make them feel anxious and concerned about treatment at home. Care therefore plays a huge part in the role of the IV specialist nurse to ensure they listen and understand so they can allay fears, provide comfort and support, and educate patients.

There has been much bad press for nurses recently, which often wrongly implies they have lost their ability to care. To me, it is very clear that when leadership fails and care goes wrong, it can have catastrophic consequences across the board.

Tips on finding out what care means to your team

● Ask what care means to them
● Care is a set of values that is about behaviours, such as smiling and listening
● Care is different things to different people, but it should always be about treating people with dignity and respect
● Show care to your staff too - make them feel valued and empowered
● Care is not just a nice thing to do, it will have an impact on patient safety and outcomes

If I ask my team what care means to them they say: empathy; understanding; listening to what the patient wants and needs; and seeing the patient as a person, not a task that needs to be done.

Care is a set of behaviours, personal qualities and values and it can include smiling, touch, respect and dignity. It is central to how people perceive their treatment and can be viewed as nursing’s most precious asset. It is also seen as kindness and a desire to provide comfort and to ease suffering. However, it’s hard to define and to measure as it has various manifestations depending on circumstances and it means different things to different people.

Care is a core value, and along with dignity and respect, it should not only be at the core of how patients and staff are treated because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes staff feel valued and empowered and improves patient safety, outcomes and - most importantly - their experience.


Alison Smith is IV lead nurse at Liverpool Community Health, which became an NHS trust in 2010

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