Speak out

A nursing student witnessed a ward manager slapping an older patient’s hand sharply, causing him to cry out. But when she reported this to her mentor, she was advised not to say anything because the ward manager was close to retirement. The student wants the ward manager to be held to account, and would like me to support her. What should I do?

Before your first meeting with the nursing student, it is essential to ask her to record every detail and circumstance of this incident in her witness account.

While your involvement in this case is crucial because you are knowledgeable about the various employment policies of your employer, you should contact your RCN regional officer who can provide you with practical guidance.

At your first meeting with the student, ideally with the regional officer present, it is important that she is reassured and put at ease. Above all, commend her for her courage in coming forward.

Vital points to explore are her relationships with the nursing staff, how this incident has been rationalised to her by her mentor and her transfer to another ward. Also central to this is the involvement of the student’s personal tutor at university.

The road ahead is hard, both for you and the nursing student once the incident goes on the record. She is likely to come across a great deal of hostility from the ward manager’s colleagues, and may have some emotional moments as she questions her decision.

You will, however, have the satisfaction of knowing that you supported someone who undoubtedly put her patient’s welfare first, and was willing to speak out publicly to condemn bad practice.

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