Editorial

When a student speaks, managers should listen

Raising concerns, speaking out, blowing the whistle – three phrases that mean much the same thing but are equally difficult to do, even for hardened professionals. But imagine being a nursing student on one of your first placements when you notice all is not well, and your early training has taught you that ignoring the problem is not an option.

Raising concerns, speaking out, blowing the whistle – three phrases that mean much the same thing but are equally difficult to do, even for hardened professionals. But imagine being a nursing student on one of your first placements when you notice all is not well, and your early training has taught you that ignoring the problem is not an option.

This is the situation that faced Emily, who writes about her experience in this week’s Nursing Standard. A couple of weeks into her placement, patients started confiding in her with their concerns about the care they were receiving. She knew immediately that she had to do something about it, but was unsure what that would entail.

We need more people who are prepared to question the status quo

‘I was only a first-year student and some of the staff members had worked in the NHS for 20 years,’ Emily writes. ‘I did not want them to treat me differently if I said anything.’ But she did say something. Fortunately, those in positions of authority listened and action was taken.

Emily’s story is refreshing on so many levels. Patients trusted her, she did all the right things, those above her responded appropriately, the problem was resolved and Emily herself feels she is a better and more confident practitioner as a result.

In her piece, Emily makes another point worthy of reflection – that ‘many patients seem more comfortable confiding in students than staff’. This could be for various reasons, but the key lesson is that students who raise concerns on behalf of patients should be taken seriously, because they are likely to be right.

Often those who have worked in an organisation for a long time have stopped seeing what’s wrong. ‘That’s the way we do things around here’ becomes an excuse for poor practice and is difficult for a newcomer to challenge. We need more students like Emily who are prepared to question the status quo, and more managers like hers who listen and act on what they are told.

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