Career advice

Values light the way to work

Since the inquiry into care failings at Mid Staffs, ‘values’ has become a buzzword in discussions about nursing. But what are values – and how do you identify yours?

Since the inquiry into care failings at Mid Staffs, ‘values’ has become a buzzword in discussions about nursing. But what are values – and how do you identify yours?

Picture credit: Ikon

Throughout the course of our lives, we develop our own values, beliefs and attitudes. Our family, friends, community, workplaces and the experiences we have had contribute to our sense of who we are and how we view the world.

As nurses, we often care for people who are vulnerable and who may have a lifestyle that mainstream society considers ‘different’ or unacceptable. To provide a service that meets the needs of our patients, we must be aware of our personal values but must not impose them on our patients.

So, how do you define what your values are? First, consider what it is you have a passion for. What activities, experiences and people make you feel deeply engaged and connected? Then look back on your life to the times when you have been inspired. Think about those times and dig beneath the surface to identify the beliefs or ideals – the values – that were a good fit for those situations and triggered such a positive response.

It is everyday nursing interactions in a particular environment that make up a patient’s direct experience of care. If you can define your values and discover what’s truly important to you, then you have a better chance of identifying the area of work best suited to you. There may also be scope to adapt the working environment to make it suit your values and the needs of your patients.

For England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, nursing values are about putting patients at the heart of everything that nurses and midwives do. The 6Cs initiative outlines ‘enduring values and beliefs that underpin care wherever it takes place’. Its aims depend on:

Helping people to stay independent, maximising wellbeing and improving health outcomes.

Working with people to provide a positive experience of care.

Delivering high-quality care and measuring the impact of care.

Building and strengthening leadership.

Ensuring we have the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place.

Supporting positive staff experience.

When our actions and words are aligned with our values, we feel content, confident and satisfied. If they are not, we will be dissatisfied and unhappy and not perform well. Values are ideals we prioritise depending on the environment we are in; we may change them through reflection and experience, or to align ourselves with the values of our workplace.

Florence Nightingale’s strong values influenced her work throughout her life:

She saw nursing as helping people to live and promoted the importance of a nurse’s integrity.

She understood the valuable contribution nurses could make in health care.

She fought for health care for people regardless of faith or economic background.

She was committed to personalised care and saw that sensitivity to patient needs was key to recovery.

It is important that you develop an awareness of what you value, because these inform your relationships with patients, colleagues and employers.

McSherry W, McSherry R, Watson R (eds) (2012) Care in Nursing: Principles, Values and Skills. Oxford University Press

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