Advice and development

Snubbing bank staff goes against the 6Cs

Nursing student Georgina Clayton was dismayed at her cool treatment by other staff on a ward where she was working a bank shift and says the 6Cs should apply to communication between staff, as well as with patients

Nursing student Georgina Clayton was dismayed at her cool treatment by other staff on a ward where she was working a bank shift, and says the 6Cs should apply to communication among staff, not only with patients

Picture: iStock

As a postgraduate adult nursing student, whenever possible I spend weekends as a healthcare support worker in a hospital.

This enables me to earn a few extra pennies to help me survive my student years, but primarily it is so that I can have as many new experiences as possible. When I graduate, I want to work on a ward that provides optimal nursing care to patients, with strong management and a team that works collaboratively.

I recently worked a bank shift as a healthcare support worker. I was the first to arrive, so waited in the staff room ready for handover. As staff started to arrive, I smiled at each one as they entered, but they stared blankly back at me.

I had been excited to work on this ward due to the nature of the care, so I was disappointed and perplexed when no one reciprocated as I introduced myself. As soon as the handover finished the nursing and care staff immediately left and went about their work.

I stood in the middle of the ward trying to reach out to busy members of staff to find out which bay I was assigned to and who I would be working with. I was astonished when I was told to ‘just look at the white board’.

I felt anonymous and undervalued, and as if I was being treated like a number – everything we are taught not to do with patients. Throughout the day I was referred to as the ‘agency worker’. Perhaps I should have told them that isn’t my name?

When you work from 7am to 8pm your job becomes your life. I wasn’t expecting to have lengthy conversations with team members, but a bit of common courtesy wouldn’t have gone amiss. Had it not been for the delightful patients I was caring for, I would have had a negative experience on this shift.

Healthcare assistants are integral cogs in the NHS wheel, and amid staff shortages agency workers can play a vital role in healthcare teams.

Yet the way I was treated was discouraging and demoralising, and left me feeling isolated. Even if everyone on that shift had been having a bad day, it would still have been no excuse for them not to call me by my name or to treat an agency worker in that way.

Team strategies

As nursing students we have the 6Cs approach to patient care drilled into us – care, compassion, competence, courage, commitment and communication.

Effective communication is paramount to the delivery of high-quality care and patient safety. How well staff communicate with each other can also make or break a shift, so perhaps trusts need to develop policies on communication between permanent staff and agency workers.

To other agency staff who experience this at work, or students on clinical placements, I would say report it – your feedback could help improve team strategies and care for other staff members in the future.

I’d also ask nurses and care staff to reflect on how they treat agency workers. If you would help and support a permanent staff member or patient, why wouldn’t you do so for an agency worker?

Set yourself high standards that demand a better NHS, be that friendly face showing a warm welcome and the team member who gives other staff the encouragement to want to return.

It has been almost five years since the late doctor Kate Granger and her husband Chris Pointon launched the #hellomynameis campaign. This has become a global success, significantly improving communication between staff and patients. A day of international celebration for the campaign will be held on 23 July.

The #hellomynameis campaign is all about promoting effective communication, so why stop at communication between patients and staff? Let’s use the principles of the campaign, and honour Dr Granger’s hard work and achievements by improving communication between staff members too.

My experience on this ward has given me a new-found desire to promote effective communication between colleagues, and has made me even more aware of the type of nurse I want to be – reflective, friendly and respectful.

Nursing is a profession where we help others, patients and team members alike. There is no excuse for anything less.

Georgina Clayton is a second-year postgraduate adult nursing student at the University of Southampton and an RCN Student Information Officer for the Southampton and Isle of Wight region.

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