Source of image: The Guardian
“As part of a pilot scheme, nurses will have to spend a year working as support workers and healthcare assistants before taking a degree, in order to better understand the caring role of frontline staff. While in this role, they will do basic tasks such as washing and feeding patients.It comes after the inquiry said there needed to be more compassion in providing care”
Source: BBC Health News
Up to November 2013, it is estimated that the Francis Inquiry into the failings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust will cost £13million. This costly inquiry has made a whopping 290 recommendations, some of which applied to the training of nurses (Which you can see in the quotation above)
I do not think, that making nurses work as healthcare assistants (HCAs) or support workers before their degree course will actually benefit nursing as a profession, or more importantly, the patients.
Firstly, from the perspective of the potential student, a year of HCA work beforehand would only make the overall training longer. A nursing degree is hard enough as it is without adding a further year of training.
More importantly though, if the inquiry is saying that there needs to be more compassion in providing care, I do doubt how a year of HCA or other care work will actually improve this. Of course, vital skills could well be learnt in this time – before I started my 9 week placement, I had no experience on a ward before then. So I had to adjust to the ward routine and develop a good ‘bedside manner’ pretty quickly. But, is compassion really something that can be taught?
I don’t think it is. Some of us have an abundance of compassion and others of us may have less, but I don’t think it is an acquirable skill, unlike performing clinical tasks, and documenting information in nursing notes – some of which I have begun to learn during my first placement.
Provided that someone has a certain level of intelligence, with acceptable grades in relevant subjects, I think that the Universities and linked teaching hospitals, are able to teach student nurses all the required clinical skills, procedures and documenting.
I think it’s also a good environment for students to develop their team-working and communication skills, and increase their anatomical knowledge, and application of this to care. However, I would like to highlight my use of words ‘develop’ and ‘increase’. In all honesty, I came in to my first day of placement with no clinical skills whatsoever. But I have been taught these. I don’t see compassion as a teachable skill, yet this is what the government are trying to teach via these measures.
I would like to point out, that contrary to a lot of media coverage, I have witnessed tremendous amounts of compassion from healthcare professionals, as a student nurse. I believe it to be a great shame that when failings such as that of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust happen, that they are talked about so much (Rightly so) yet when nurses and doctors save lives, work extremely long weeks and put up with a lot, this is not broadcast, and they are not praised. However, I do not deny, that of course there are a few, who will not meet the high standard of care and compassion that we have come to expect from our nurses.
Source of image: High Achievers Network
“At Mid Staffordshire, some patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases”
This was also taken from the BBC page given above. These failings, are horrific. I question whether any healthcare staff should actually need any form of training to recognise that a patient has been lying in soiled linen for days. And what about getting patients a jug of water and ensuring it is left in their reach if they are immobile!? With regard to these two particular failings, they are mere common sense. And how this has happened, in all honesty, makes me feel ashamed of the profession that I enter into.
Rather than this pilot scheme that ministers have suggested, I believe that there is a better way that the nursing care given in this country could be improved. By changing the application system. Let me explain…
Nursing particularly, is a very over-subscribed course. In 2012, there were 212,572 applicants for a Nursing course at UK universities, with 23,836 places being accepted. Making a ratio of applicants to acceptances of 8.9:1 (Source: UCAS ) and meaning that 188,736 applicants were left without a University place.
So, all these applicants will have written a personal statement, and filled in other information to form their application to University. But how many of these personal statements and applications are actually read? Unfortunately, I don’t have a stat for this, but I think we all know that the Unis don’t read personal statements. Some, probably take the pile, and without even looking, instantly discard a fair amount of the applications. I think it’s a shame because it does make me wonder how many amazing nursing applicants were missed through not reading personal statements properly. Universities that run nursing courses, should read all the personal statements they receive, however long it takes. I think it would be acceptable for them, to therefore ask for the applications in earlier, as happens for Medicine, Vetinary and Oxbridge applications, so they have the time to do this. I believe that the Nursing and Midwifery Council should make some attempt to ensure that this is being done.
On top of this, while more stressful for the applicants, I think having maybe two individual interviews and a group interview, on separate occasions would give the Universities a better chance to really scrutinise the character of their applicants. This would ensure that they are not only articulate enough to enter into the profession, but also have the communication and personal skills, and compassion to be a nurse. They could also utilise psychologically-approved online, multiple choice questions, in order to get an idea for how compassionate someone is. Possibly even a bit of role-play as well – ask them to deliver some bad news or put them in a similar situation. These methods would be more stressful, but nursing is a stressful career.
What I’m saying is, is that I think the training is of a good standard already, but I think that the interview process could be improved, ultimately, to get the best of the best, which ensures that the patients are getting the best care, and being given the compassion that they deserve.
What do you think about the failings at the Stafford hospital? Will the government’s proposed measures improve how compassionate our nurses are?
Thanks for reading