Don’t patronise me

Why do so many complex issues in the health service get boiled down to crusades that do little other than tell nurses what they should already know?

Nurses need support to care, not gimmicks telling them what to do

Picture credit: Getty

Take the 6Cs campaign, or #HelloMyNameIs on Twitter. Both were set up to meet a need in the health service, and apparently have their merits. But has anyone taken the time to find out whether they have actually improved standards of care?

We know poor care exists, and we know there are nurses whose practice is not up to scratch. The 6Cs and #HelloMyNameIs both seek to target these people, but those taking up the gauntlet and championing the causes are likely to be enthusiastic nurses whose care is already the best it can be, meaning these campaigns are missing their mark.

I find them rather patronising, and I bet I am not alone. Take the 6Cs, which attempts to simplify nursing into six key components. If the aim was to help explain to patients what we do, it might make more sense. But it is not – it is by nurses, for nurses, who should already know what their profession is all about.

My main concern is that schemes like the 6Cs promote the false notion that poor care only comes from the individual, without so much as a nod to the systemic issues and short staffing that so often have a major role to play. Telling nurses they should provide good care is not the same as supporting them to deliver it, and while our wards and break rooms get some snazzy posters, key issues remain unaddressed.

The reality is that good care comes from more than just one nurse and his or her ideals. To forget this is to betray all those who go home at night feeling deflated because they cannot give every patient the care they deserve.

The 6Cs might sound good, but on the ground they mean little. They mean little to the nurse staying late just to make sure her patient is comfortable, and they mean nothing to the patient who has barely seen his nurse all day because the ward is so short-staffed.

I am not saying these movements and campaigns do not have a role to play. The #HelloMyNameIs campaign highlighted how, in our drive to treat patients, we can forget to treat them as people. But we need to look further than simply telling health professionals to introduce themselves.

Nurses can direct change, but we have to pour our energies into what works, not what sounds good. Rather than jumping in blindly, we need to stop and look at the evidence base and assess whether these campaigns are having a positive effect on patient care.

It is easy to tell people what to do, but actually changing the culture in health care takes effort. It also takes investment. But given the current financial climate of the NHS, this is not likely to be forthcoming any time soon, and we will continue to be asked to do more with less.

As a nursing student, I have worked with and learned from some fantastic, dedicated nurses. I am sure they reflect most in the nursing profession, who simply lack the resources to care for patients the way they would like.

We all know there are problems in the health service. So instead of dishing out stickers and hoping for change, perhaps it is time to ditch the gimmicks and fight for real change on the front line.

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