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Ian Hulatt: Resilience doesn’t mean coping at all costs

Warning signs that the nursing workforce is in trouble have been apparent for years. The current focus on emotional resilience should not distract from the need for action

Warning signs that the nursing workforce is in trouble have been apparent for years. The current focus on emotional resilience should not distract from the need for action


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Everyone can remember their first car. It probably needed coaxing along and at times it was an act of faith to even set out on a long journey. However, we eventually earned – or borrowed – more and ended up with a more sophisticated and reliable model. In fact, it was so modern that to lift the bonnet was to view something that we couldn’t recognise, let alone attempt to fix.

After a long period of reliable and unstinting service, and completely ignoring the user’s manual, the day came when a warning light started flashing on the dashboard. We faced a clear choice – go to a garage and seek help from someone who knows, or assume that as the car is modern and has given faultless service up to now, it is safe to just ignore that flashing light for a bit longer.

Ignoring warning signs comes with a potential high cost, and if our response is to place a piece of sticking plaster over the dashboard so we can’t see the offending warning light, that’s just plain reckless.

Warnings of trouble

This same process of choosing to ignore self-evident warning signs is now being applied to the nursing profession. Consider the lights that have been flashing away for some considerable time, clear warnings of trouble that have been ignored.

We have endured a lack of coherent workforce planning, a wage freeze for seven years, the removal of the bursary that has resulted in a drop in applications to nursing courses, the increased casualisation of the workforce, and now Agenda for Change is in the sights of ‘reform’.

I wonder if the present interest in emotional resilience is nothing more than a finessing of the old ‘coping at all costs’ culture that has dogged nursing for decades.


Ian Hulatt is consultant editor of Mental Health Practice

 

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