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If you want to educate the public – ask a nurse

Public health campaigns are a blunt necessity, but nurses have the expertise to help people to change

Public health campaigns are a blunt necessity, but nurses have the expertise and common sense to support people in making changes for the better

People can find government messaging on topics such as obesity patronising. Picture: Alamy

Rather strange, wasnt it, the short but sizzling heatwave?

It was 33C in the shade in our garden and I loved it. The first summer of my retirement and instead of sweltering at work, I was sweltering on my sun lounger.

Has the COVID-19 crisis eroded tolerance for public health advice?

But there was something weird about it all although the weather conditions were extreme, there was no nannying from the government. No one told me to use sun cream or drink lots of water, or

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Public health campaigns are a blunt necessity, but nurses have the expertise and common sense to support people in making changes for the better

People can find government messaging on topics such as obesity patronising. Picture: Alamy

Rather strange, wasn’t it, the short but sizzling heatwave?

It was 33°C in the shade in our garden and I loved it. The first summer of my retirement and instead of sweltering at work, I was sweltering on my sun lounger.

Has the COVID-19 crisis eroded tolerance for public health advice?

But there was something weird about it all – although the weather conditions were extreme, there was no nannying from the government. No one told me to use sun cream or drink lots of water, or anything.

Maybe the person in the NHS Department of Stating the Obvious has been furloughed? Or has just simply melted?

‘The fact that we are all sinners helps. I struggle with my weight. In my last job, where I worked with patients with diabetes, I shared strategies I used to improve my own diet while acknowledging what a battle it can be’

I blame the coronavirus. There have been so many orders from the government about infection control over the past five months, they must think we can’t take much more.

It’s been the Nanny State with extra fries. Actually, forget the fries, we’ve all been told we’re too fat as a nation and that we should be cutting back on the goodies, so I blame the obesity crisis as well.

Nurses have always had a hand in delivering health education

Okay, I am being unfair; the government has a responsibility to ensure the public are safe, as it has tried to do during the pandemic. But are these pronouncements from on-high actually effective?

Since time immemorial, it has been part of a nurse’s role to deliver health education. Even though I have retired, I am still asked for advice.

The public see nurses as accessible, as one of their number. We are the ones who get to know patients and their individual circumstances and possess the experience and common sense to tailor the counsel we give.

So, shouldn’t the government just leave it to the professionals?

Collaborative campaigns between government and front-line staff are effective

With mega health campaigns over the years, such as smoking cessation and child vaccination, it has been collaboration between the Department of Health and Social Care and those of us who work alongside patients that have brought about their success.

It is impossible to measure how much of a contribution nurses have made as they have supported people through their struggles and fears – a small conversation here, a word of encouragement there.

Listening to the preaching from the remote pulpit of government just doesn’t hit the spot in the same way, but they are somehow symbiotic.

The fact that we are all sinners helps at times. I struggle with my weight, I always have. In my last job, where I worked with patients with diabetes, I shared the strategies I used to improve my own diet while acknowledging what a battle it can be.

One size-fits all advice helps those who need it

So, thanks for sharing your opinions Charles Moore, but some of us have to contend with ongoing issues with our health and we don’t need to be called out in a public forum.

People like me laugh at Nanny State advice and feel it insults our intelligence. But there are people who need this basic guidance, so it has to be a one size fits all approach.

This is where nurses come in – the government can issue blanket statements but we tuck the patient in and make sure the blanket fits.


Jane Bates is a retired nurse

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