Career advice

Raising concerns: do the right thing

Saying nothing about poor care may seem like the easy option – it isn’t. So get support, do the right thing and don’t be hard on yourself.

Saying nothing about poor care may seem like the easy option, but it isn’t. So get support, do the right thing and don’t be hard on yourself

Don't ignore your responsibility to protect those in your care. Picture: iStock

I will never forget the clinical tutor who, after we had assisted an elderly lady to have a wash, asked me: ‘If this was your mum would you do anything differently?’ This became my motto throughout my training and guided me in one of the most challenging situations I encountered: that of witnessing and reporting care that I felt verged on negligent.

Scared of any potential repercussions, I raised my concerns through the protection of my nursing school. However, I also made a vow to myself that I would always stand up for patients, colleagues and anyone else who I thought was being mistreated, including myself. It was hard but I stuck to this promise, and it shaped me both professionally and personally.

Dig deep

Throughout the country there are wards at breaking point. It is a sign of the times when even the most experienced and compassionate nurses may be tempted to turn a blind eye. So what can you do if you have concerns about the safety of those in your care or the way a colleague is being treated?

Let’s go back to basics – saying nothing may seem like the easiest route, but you won’t rest easy if you ignore your professional responsibilities to protect those in your care. The Nursing and Midwifery Council is clear about the nurse or midwife’s role in escalating concerns, outlined both in the Code and their Raising Concerns guidance.

But how do you muster up the strength to do something constructive when you are already pushed to your limits?

  • Follow the process: regardless of the situation, there will be a clear process to follow. You will be expected to follow your trust’s policies, so don’t take matters into your own hands. Gather the evidence and act accordingly.
  • You are not alone: it’s natural to feel intimidated and emotionally drained when you raise a concern, so seek support. Confidentiality is paramount – use formal channels of support, such as your union, to talk over the incident, and focus informal support from family and friends on how you are feeling as opposed to the details of what has happened.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself: it is always a good idea to examine your motives, as this can help you focus on what it is you are concerned about, but try to avoid feeling guilty. Even if your concern involves a colleague, this is not a playground and you are not ‘telling tales’.
  • Turn it around: thinking back to my student mantra, if it was your loved one who had been affected would you want someone to stand up for them? Chances are you would.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance health writer and life/health coach

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