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Practice comment

''Today’s nurses must find time for the fluffy stuff''


Early last year my local NHS trust launched three promises to hospital patients. It would make them feel welcomed, cared for and in safe hands as part of an organisational development programme, which was called “For one and all: improving your experience”

As a cynical healthcare writer, I couldn’t help but wonder if these buzzwords were what really mattered to patients.

And did staff already run ragged on a daily basis really have time for all that “fluffy stuff”? As the wife of a nurse, I had no illusions about the pressures of working at today’s NHS coalface.

And then I was admitted to hospital. Just before Christmas, I underwent an emergency laparotomy and spent the following week recovering on a surgical ward.

As I waited to be sedated, the consultant anaesthetist commented that everyone involved in shaping, planning, delivering and even writing about healthcare would benefit from seeing the NHS through the eyes of a patient. She was right.

I am immensely grateful for the skills of the surgeon. However, it was the way she always looked me in the eye, spoke directly to me, gave me clear and honest answers and left me feeling as upbeat as she was that left a lasting impression.

I am equally grateful that the nurses on the ward were highly skilled in doing all those things that nurses do. But it was their genuine compassion that really helped me through the experience. For example, the senior sister who sat with me when reality kicked in as the morphine wore off; the young nurse who made a point of telling me how concerned she had been when I developed a complication; and the bank nurse who made herself available to talk about my aches, my fears and my two young children in the dead of night.

Their competence was evident in everything they did, from explaining what they were going to do and patiently answering my questions, to assuaging my embarrassment as they bathed me and helped me to feel that little bit more human, they made me feel that they really cared. And that was exactly what I needed.

I also really appreciated their sense of humour (let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be seen in public in a pair of thrombo-embolus deterrent stockings).

All the staff who took the time to share a smile, comment or anecdote during the busy working day made a whole world of difference to my hospital stay.

At a time when the 6Cs have been thrown into sharp focus, there can be no doubt that today’s nurses can, and must, find time for the “fluffy stuff”. My own experience was one of quite outstanding care and compassion, despite all the pressures they face.

When I was discharged, I felt unexpectedly emotional. I had only known the staff on ward 10 at Walsall Healthcare Trust briefly, but during that time they had made me feel welcomed, cared for and in safe hands, and for that I am truly grateful.

Alison Handley Baldwin is a freelance healthcare writer.

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Readers' comments (23)

  • I agree with the subtitle but find referring to what nurses do as part of their job and as a human being 'fluffy stuff' is the limit and highly degrading. It puts it on a par with referring to a small handful of core attributes common to most nurses and an essential part of the job, as they have always been, the 'Six C's'!!!!!!!!!!

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  • HA HA HA HA just read this article by skimming through past articles on the rare time I get to do this.

    Wonder what the relatives of other patients would say if whilst they were waiting relentlessly for the use of one of the 3 commodes on the ward, the nurse was held up because they have to find time for the "fluffy stuff?" Or waiting for the sheets to be changed/drug administered or help with other complications?

    Instead of bleating on about nurses "finding time" to discuss fears and talk about their children, what about campaigning for a minimum level of nursing on wards?

    Stop preaching to us about "fluffy stuff." We all no about how it SHOULD be, we just need someone to listen to us about how it actually is!!

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  • michael stone

    The problem, Alison, is that the NHS is OCD about 'protocols and records' and 'the fluffy stuff' cannot easily be inserted into those things: 'the fluffy stuff' is very important to patients, but beyond asking patients 'was it fluffy for you ?' it is very hard to measure.

    The NHS likes things that are easy to measure - it struggles, with things that are difficult to measure.

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  • Comment removed due to breaching this site's terms and conditions:<br/>

  • when I trained we were moved on, even during the quiet period in the afternoon when they were resting and their was no routine work to be done, if we were just seen talking to patients, even if they were talking to us about their concerns. small talk is also important in getting to know patients, helping them relax, gaining trust and building a therapeutic relationship, as well as teachinng student nurses and allowing them to gain experience in communicaion skills with patients. However, rather short signed senior nurses seemed to think otherwise. Students were there to be used at all times and they would always send us off to do something like tidying the linen cupboard, clean the sluice, rearranging the stock on the shelves, etc. even though it may have been done a few hours before. anything active rather than just passing the time passively talking to patients or even to each other or o tmore senior colleagues from whom we might have had something to learn!

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  • how fluffy does it have to be?

    used to be called TLC in my day!

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  • i suppose nurses are anything any wants them to be and can be called anything people wish to call them. Are we now to be downgraded from the angels in the eyes of the public which we never were to 'Fluffy Stuff' or even highly derrogatory 'Bits of Fluff' - so much for being professional men and women in our own right and for which we have studied and worked hard.

    "Hello & Welcome to Fluffy Stuff-Fairy Floss

    Fairy floss, candy floss or cotton candy - it doesn't matter what you call that fluffy stuff! We pride ourselves in making only the best fairy floss for markets, fetes, parties, fundraising, promotions and now you can even buy our fairy floss online."

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  • "Fluffy Stuff

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (December 2009)

    Fluffy Stuff is a brand of cotton candy that comes in a variety of fruit flavors, marketed by Tootsie Roll Industries, who acquired it in 2000. It is the largest producer of cotton candy in the United States. The candy is packed in moisture-resistant, airtight bags, to prevent moisture and airborne containments from spoiling the product. It is available in popular seasonal varieties, including Snow Balls (December), Cotton Tails (Easter), and Spider Webs (Halloween)."

    Even Flo Nightingale would probably turn in her grave to hear her successors related to 'Fluffy Stuff.'

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  • Tiger Girl

    Anonymous | 18-Aug-2013 3:03 pm

    I'm puzzled by this suggestion that nurses are being described as fluffy stuff: there was no suggestion in either the article or the first few comments, that it was the nurses who were 'fluffy'.

    The fluffy stuff is what Anonymous | 18-Aug-2013 2:54 pm described as 'talking to patients, even if they were talking to us about their concerns. small talk is also important in getting to know patients, helping them relax, gaining trust and building a therapeutic relationship'.

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  • Tiger Girl | 19-Aug-2013 9:26 am

    both my comments. just an ironic association of ideas.

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