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Why not televise the pledge with a celebrity audience?


I was listening to a student nurse this week talking about the transformational nature of putting on her nurse’s uniform. To her eternal credit she made it sound like an enchanted frock. She felt the change that came over her was something about joining a collective, a “group of knowers and doers” and joining demanded something more from her.

It was vague and almost whimsical but it was also, I thought, very insightful - it began to address the complexities that surround joining the nursing profession. Who do you become when you become a nurse? What are you signing up for? Responsibility certainly, as well as frustration, emotional labour, ongoing learning, endless demands, satisfaction, challenge, sadness and a sense - one hopes - of social value.

I wondered how conscious nurses are at the beginning of their career of this range of experience and expectation that will fill their working lives. And I wondered if making some sort of pledge - and I’m imagining a ritualised process here, where it’s said out loud in front of an invited audience that might include Cheryl Cole or The Krankies - might somehow further embed both the values that underpin nursing and the responsibilities that accompany it. Is that going to help nurses? Will the pledge somehow enhance their sense of professionalism or challenge the alleged perception of them being passive or poorly educated handmaidens?

‘MPs have to make a pledge and that has not challenged the perception that most of them are self serving, morally stunted disappointments’

MPs have to make a pledge when they enter the House of Commons and that has not challenged the perception that most of them are self serving, morally stunted disappointments. So why might it be useful - as the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery claims - for nurses?

Perhaps a statement of purpose, one that celebrates the potential, power and values of nursing, along with its unique role, might be quite nice. But if we are going to do it I think we should do it big. The pledge should be televised and very sparkly. And forget Cheryl or The Krankies; bus in George Clooney and the cast of Ocean’s Eleven. And we’ll need royalty. And nice food and drink. And party games. And some proper dressing up. And dancing. Because if you want nursing to celebrate its values with a pledge, why not take the time to celebrate nursing and what it means?

There may be something patronising about asking nurses to make a statement of professional intent - as if the three year training and the code of conduct had not already done that. But if it is a ritualised assurance that politicians need, they and the pledge they request would be taken more seriously if it was accompanied with additional investment or support. Sooner or later politicians need to wonder what they can do to support the nation’s most important institutions, particularly as they are asking for additional commitments from them.


Readers' comments (3)

  • I am delighted to hear that the student nurse feels the way she does about putting on her uniform.

    When my children were very young I worked as a Night Sister at the weekend in a busy District General Hospital. My husband looked after the children. This enabled me to be both a Mother and Professional Nurse without compromising either role. The thing that made the difference was doning my smart uniform and yes my silly frilly hat.

    It was an instant transformation into a mind set of professionalism and responsibility and an expectation from patients visitors and staff that I knew what I was doing.

    At the end of a 12 hour night shift, off came the hat and I reverted back to being a Mum.

    Good luck to the student.

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  • Agree completely - bring back the frilly hats - they're not silly; they make patients feel safe.

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  • re: comment ? new pledges for nurses what i would like to know are MPs going to do a pledge when they take office to represent us, tell us the truth listern and not put in excessive expenses claims are doctors going to make the same pledge ? are solicitors accountants etc expected to make pledges, after all we all belong to govening bodies that regulate our practice, or are we being singled out on a whim which has probably cost the taxpayers several thousand pounds, do our training and professional qualifications mean nothing ? i am very glad that i am at the other end of my nursing career i have always been proud to hold my head up and say yes i am a nurse i beleive i provide a good service, but now the reputation of nurses is such the public has lost confidence, our employers let us down yet again. i see it it all the time as long as they can tick boxes to say its being done then the patient is forgotten isnt that why we are nurses " The Patient"
    where is job satisfaction, when in our trust we have had 4 years of changes uncertainty about job losses staff so stressed they are going off sick, managers who dont listen just say get on with it, ive lost count of the money wasted on meetings only to be told its all been cancelled,
    disallusioned yes angry yes, why do i do my job because i care about people who become patients

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