Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Understanding others

I have just finished reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (which won the Man Booker prize in 2011). It's a bit tenuous to link my leisure reading into a professional blog but I thought I would give it a try anyway! It is a short book - a novella that took me a few hours to read - but (uncommonly for me) I went straight back to page 1 on completing it. I found it impacted on me in a way that doesn't often happen by compellingly taking me into one person's story. For those who haven't read the book, it is a story told by a man looking back over his life, acknowledging the tricks that memory can play, but emphasising the impact that one's experiences can have (whether correctly remembered or not) on choices that are then played out over a lifetime. For me, the feeling that the book has left me with is a renewed appreciation of the complexities of seemingly straightforward lives, the hidden depths of people's experiences that may not be obvious to the casual bystander (or the health professional), and the assumptions that we can make about people's motivations and choices in life. We obviously can't do in-depth interviews with our patients to uncover their life experiences, but for me the book highlighted that we need to take time to understand people as best as we can so that we can at least attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of others when caring for them - an impossible task I know. I don't often get to my leisure reading these days, but I must do so more often as good books help me to appreciate and understand people and ideas better.

Friday, 13 July 2012

"What can and should be done about nursing?"

Articles in the Independent newspaper draw attention to the widespread views of the public and some in the nursing profession of the concerns regarding the standards of care. The general view of the author seems to be that things have gone wrong, and that the way in which we educate nursing students plays a large part in the 'glaring deficiencies' in some practice areas. To balance the negativity the author does highlight that there are 'many excellent nurses and many inspirational examples'.

While I am in complete agreement that we must always evaluate practice and offer the highest standards of care, I continue to find it disappointing that so much of the rhetoric surrounding the evident problems is focused on a supposed change in compassion and empathy (in simplistic terms, nurses used to have compassion and empathy, but now they don't). Interesting that one person who was interviewed for one of the pieces suggests that nursing is a 'basic instinct' in some people, and not rocket science. What I have noticed about myself as a nurse, and my students, is that the educational process facilitates the development of core skills and knowledge for practice, and also enables us to develop as people within the professional context. The combination of high-level knowledge and skills required for nursing practice within this current context alongside compassion, caring, empathy, convinces me that university education (properly developed, implemented and evaluated for practice) is the only way that we can drive up standards. When I say 'university education', I am referring to the essential collaborative approach for education - with students, patients, carers, others. Ever the optimist, I remain convinced that most of the people who choose to come into nursing do so for the best reasons, and that we as educators have the tools to facilitate the development of their potential.

Once again I was privileged to sit on the graduation stage yesterday which our students walked across with pride. My own personal tutor group were amongst those completing and I can honestly say that I would have no hesitation in leaving the care of any of my family or friends in their hands. These intelligent, caring, thoughtful and well-developed individuals are a credit to the profession. It is my hope that people like these continue to work hard to impact positively on practice and to help to make the changes where these are required.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Professionalism in nursing

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been in the headlines this morning with news of its failings. As registrants we have been aware of the issues facing the NMC for some time now, but the news puts the story firmly in the public spotlight. It will be interesting to see how the NMC shapes up as they make changes and interesting to see that already they have withdrawn the NMC professional advice service so as to avoid confusion relating to their role as regulator. From my perspective, it is not good news for the professions to see the NMC in this situation. It is likely that this story will add fuel to the media fire about standards of care with assumptions potentially being made about the state of nursing itself.

I am sure we all want to see nursing's profile raised positively and as educators (in universities and in practice) we work hard with students to provide them with the learning opportunities that will enable them to operate as professional, caring, compassionate and intelligent nurses. As I've said before on my blog, I am really interested in working towards a situation where we are able to select students who have the potential for all these qualities - I am doing a funded project on a related area. I don't want to give the impression that we haven't been selecting the right people - we have in most cases I think. But there is a need for us to hone our decision-making so that we ensure that we continue to drive up standards of care across all the settings in which we operate.