Fallen angels?

A contribution to 2020health’s recent report ‘Too posh to wash? Reflections on the future of nursing’

by Justine Whitaker, Director and Nurse Consultant, Northern Lymphology Ltd

Nursing is often described as a ‘vocation’. It appears that this has allowed some exploitation of the profession, giving others, particularly politicians, to form clichés. One can often hear terms like ‘angels’. This term can be viewed two ways; firstly, most would think this OK if it is said by a patient, by way of thanks for some care which has been delivered and made them feel respected and treated with dignity. It can be viewed negatively, however, when it is used in the media or by politicians; as an example, one head line said ‘Not all Nurses are Angels’ when describing Mr Cameron’s response to the CQC report, where five hospitals failed to meet basic standards of care to their patient. It is here that the term angels can cause offence to those within the profession and upset patients who use the term with the best of intentions. I neither agree nor disagree that nurses are angels as there is good and bad in all things; however the way society and the media uses analogies can be destructive.

However, for as many years as there has been news, the Nursing Profession has heard only how good and wonderful it is. So, in early January 2012 it was a shock to the profession, and the nation, to hear the Prime Minister criticise nursing.

There is no doubt that the nursing profession has taken a battering recently from many sources. Being told your good or constantly referred to as an ‘Angel’ has diminished the ability to deal with criticism, which in turn has an effect on confidence. Providing a platform for nurses to regain confidence requires a faceted approach. Education is an ideal platform for this. Bringing the Nursing Profession to graduate level has indeed created much debate. This should be embraced as empowering the nurses of the future with knowledge and courage to ‘challenge’ and ‘critique’ can only drive the profession forward. However, this can only be achieved if we invest in allowing the natural innate drive to care to be regarded at the same level as that which drives other respected professionals.

But Mr Cameron, don’t be surprised that when you educate a nurse, that she won’t occasionally ‘ruffle her feathers’.

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