Address the basic needs of those who care for others

Janet Youd on why now is the time to invest in the needs of those caring for others in the emergency department

If we view our lives as a collection of experiences, all of us will have significant events with which we mark time. Thus, some years appear to have more significance than others. I will remember 2016 as the year of celebrity death, although for me these were losses to our heritage and culture rather than a cause of personal suffering.

Picture: iStock

So far I shall remember 2017 as the year of mass-scale human tragedy in the UK. I have witnessed the raw emotions of those whose loved ones were stolen from them too soon and in a brutal way. This has happened in places I identify with rather than places I have never visited, which somehow makes it not more tragic, but more real to me. I have also seen the collective brilliance of our emergency services and human beings’ ability to reach out to each other.

Love and belonging

Reflecting on these tragedies, I am reminded of the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow. We must address the physical needs – food, water, rest – before we can move on to safety, shelter and security. Without belonging and love, we cannot move on to esteem and accomplishment. All these elements must be addressed before we can achieve self-actualisation.

What does this mean for emergency nursing? We cannot expect nurses to be pioneering and generate solutions to national and international health problems – meeting their potential – if their basic needs have not been addressed. They must have rotas that facilitate adequate sleep. They must have breaks to enable nutritional intake. They must work in environments that facilitate safety and mental well-being. They must feel valued and a sense of belonging before accomplishing development.


The new RCN National Curriculum and Competency Framework for Emergency Nursing is a great vehicle for such educational development. It will provide a platform for the innovation that emergency nurses are capable of delivering. However, it will only achieve its aim if the basics are attended to first.

As I go about my daily life I am reminded that emergency service personnel attend to the basic needs of others every day. For that I am truly grateful. Now is the time to invest in their needs.

About the author

Janet Youd is a nurse consultant emergency care, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, and chair of the RCN Emergency Care Association

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