I have watched. I have listened. I have read. Many a times over actually. Over the last few months, pretty much all quarters have been taking flak in the media. Cynics would say a concentrated effort to denigrate the profession as a whole and allow privatisation in...countered by the individuals who have lost loved ones in tragedies such as Mid Staffs to say this has been long overdue. Either way, nurses against doctors against managers..even more in depth has been the GPs against GPs..GPs against specialists...a divided profession has struggled to mount any meaningful defence of their livelihood...back in October I had blogged about "Civil Wars"...months later, there seems little signs of that abating.
Amongst all that, it has been interesting to see the nurses being put through the mill..suddenly the Florence Nightingale's were being torn apart...bit by bit. The RCN launches a spirited defence...but perhaps their case tainted by what went before with Mid Staffs...and the juggernaut has rolled on..slowly but surely corroding away the good will built up over all those years. Molly Case, in her passionate speech at the recent RCN congress perhaps encapsulated the turmoil nurses are going through..frustrated that all their efforts, day in day out, in the face of adversity, are now being denigrated in the face of either political agenda or perhaps the fault of some colleagues..or even perhaps both.
My interaction with nurses? On a daily basis...on the wards and in the unit in which I work. Different personalities...but everyday I see them there...at work. Nowhere near paid what Consultants or GPs are paid..but nowadays doing a lot of the jobs traditionally the medics used to do. Case in point? Diabetes care. We can beat around the bush as much as we want but within primary care, without practice nurses, diabetes care is dead in the water. GPs neither have the time- and in lots of cases,as per personal experience, even less expertise than their practice nurses. Without them...no generation of QoF, no money..big problem. As part of our work, apart from appreciation of GP workload, one has also learnt to take a bow to what practice nurses do for diabetes care.
What about hospitals? Well..within our "award winning", "ultra amazing" "forward thinking" diabetes department, the most essential commodity was, is and always will be our nurses. As Clinical Director, I expend a lot of time and energy "justifying" their role to management..why? Because I know if I lose even part of them, this services goose is well and truly cooked. Same for the community work we do...without Jane,Debbie,Ali and Gwen...this pioneering model will,simply put, not work.
Everyday during my travels, I meet nurses...frustrated, shackled by bureaucracy .but still itching to do some good. Every day I meet them and I wonder what we,as doctors, as their colleagues, can do to help. I suggest we try and perhaps stand up for them a bit more. At each individual level, whether it be the ward or your unit, make her or him feel a little bit..special. Let them know how precious they are to your ward, to your unit...I have said this before- and within all the 3 Trusts I work with, know how publicly I declare that the nurses are our linchpin.
My suggestion? Look after them a bit more...as medics, we, like it or not, have the comfort of our salaries to fall back on after all the politics..not to mention how difficult it is for any medic to lose their job. Our nurse colleagues unfortunately have none of those safety nets. We talk a lot about GPs and Specialists working together...and indeed that is very important...but for starters...from tomorrow, just ask your department or surgery nurse, how YOU could help. It maybe something as simple as making them a cup of coffee in the morning...maybe just a chat...but we, at these times, where divide and rule seems to be the mantra of the day, must, absolutely must find some time to stand by them. Not behind them. By them.Give them the freedom and belief to do what they need to do, what they joined this profession to do.
Believe me, it doesn't take long but the dividends reaped from a happy nursing work force as regards patient care is more than worth its weight in gold.
Forget the media tags. Neither are they angels, nor are they demons. They are, in the most, individuals who just want to do good for their patient.So go on...give it a try tomorrow or when you are back at work..a few extra minutes for your nurse colleague..
In the words of Arthur Williams.."I am not telling you its going to be easy. I am telling you its going to be worth it".