I can’t grow carrots. I don’t know why. I plant them in the right place at the right time and they are pretty much facing the right way. I water them, feed them, coax them, chivvy them. But nothing.
I tell them rabbit jokes and water them again but not one carrot has yet to emerge from my allotment. We have produced everything from sweetcorn to bananas on our allotment, but we fail to come up with the carrots.
And so I wonder about my abilities as a vegetable grower before slipping back to my default position and philosophise idly. Why am I fretting about the carrots? I have courgettes coming out of my ears (which was down to a practical joke by my daughter), I have potatoes, tomatoes, a wide range of berries, apples, artichokes.
Yet I fixate on what I can’t grow, what I can’t make happen. I am fascinated by my failures. I become full of what I have done badly, I let it define me - sometimes I even wish I had a regulatory body that could oversee me and ensure that I am punished for my inadequacies. Which is, of course, what marriage is for.
‘Sometimes I wish I had a regulatory body that could oversee me and ensure that I am punished for my inadequacies. Which is, of course, what marriage is for’
Now I am prepared to take full responsibility for my failure to grow carrots. The buck stops here. But having located who to blame is that the end of the problem? According to a report in The Times last week some nurses are about to face disciplinary proceedings over the failures of care at Staffordshire Hospital last year. It is notable that former managers who refused to address issues around staff shortages do not have a regulatory body and will therefore not face sanctions, but from a nursing point of view that does not alter the fact that we demand high standards of ourselves.
It is wholly appropriate that clinicians across the board are investigated when patients suffer. And as a profession we would expect nothing less. However, when we have figured out who is responsible, and ensured they are disciplined and that professionally the lessons are taken in, I think then we have another really important job to do - we have to try to find out what happens to nurses who stop doing what they are trained to do.
Poor nursing is not something we can automatically ascribe to bad nurses or bad people. No nurse comes into the profession in order to do a bad job. No nurse qualifies without the ability and understanding to do well, to care, to know good from bad.
Something happens to nurses who perform badly. Something disables them. It may be anything from burnout to breakdown, from mismanagement to disinvestment. A lack of professional sustenance or no supervision. But nurses do not nurse badly for no reason.
If we are serious about regulation we have to always look beyond who we can blame to understand why it happened. Not just systemically but also personally. Otherwise our investigation is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, dishonest.
And worse - we create a culture of abandonment, not only for the patients who are not cared for but also for the nurses who forget what they are doing.