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What the doctor ordered

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Five things to do this year

The turn of the year is a great chance to revisit the achievements of the past year, and consider the opportunities for the coming one.
Many people make new year’s resolutions. This month, I take the liberty of proposing some possible resolutions for modern-day nurses.

Talk your job up. Be proud to be a health service worker and spread positive views about working in healthcare. If we cannot appreciate the opportunities afforded by our roles and the environment in which we work, then how can we expect others to have a favourable view of health services? It is said that up to a quarter of the working population works in the NHS or has a first-degree relative who does – so your informal views can be enormously influential. Given the size of the NHS nursing workforce, the impact on public perception will be huge. Think how much better it will be to work in a service that is widely valued and praised.

Recognise that the buck stops here. And behave as if it does. Taking personal responsibility for the welfare of patients is sadly lacking in health services, yet it is the basis of much of the popular perception of the heroic nurse. The idea that ‘if it’s going to be, it’s down to me
’ is not universally accepted but is sound grounding for the development of nursing and the recognition of nurses as professionals of high standing.

Battle infection. Cross-infection in hospitals and the colonisation of MRSA in community locations are major threats to patients everywhere. Working together, we can reduce the risks enormously. Simple ways of avoiding cross-contamination are well evidenced and generally enforced in clinical environments. It is essential to encourage an ethos of supportive challenge. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a newly qualified nurse remind a senior consultant about hand hygiene.
Abhor waste. Any time, space or resources not used to their best patient benefit represent waste. We each have the responsibility to limit this and obtain best value. Patients occupying beds unnecessarily are a good example of waste that can be influenced by assertive nursing staff. Freeing up these beds for patients who really need them is possible for most ward-based nurses, and many community nursing teams.

Learn a new skill and apply it. Continued self-development offers great opportunities in the ever-changing environment of healthcare, and is all too often taken for granted. Given the developing and expanding remit of nursing, this is a particularly exciting and essential undertaking for the future.

I hope each of you finds something new, challenging and enthralling in 2008.

Martin Sandler is a consultant physician at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

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