Comment | Nurses failing the vulnerable

The topic of a ‘failing’ NHS is never out of the news. This week an article caught my eye on that completely reliable news site, The Daily Mail, and this one really was appalling.

The article highlighted a number of shocking cases in which standards of care fell well below expectations. There has been a generational shift in which nursing staff are now required to study for degrees, whereas in years gone by it wasn’t a mandatory requirement, with the profession instead being valued for its human qualities.

I’m not against the improved training for nurses; quite the opposite in fact. Many people at the University of Leeds study different branches of nursing, and this is a respectable degree when you think of the responsibilities nurses have. Training them in this way and helping them take pressure off doctors appears a good idea. The problem arises when some nurses, by no means the majority, feel their degree puts them ‘above’ the more basic roles of caring for the patients in hospitals.

The article I read featured many extracts from letters sent to MPs about personal experiences in hospitals and some were simply horrifying. One in particular featured a nurse who refused to help an elderly woman who was vomiting, claiming “I am a graduate, I don’t do sick.” The fact that the nurse was qualified should’ve enhanced the level of service she was able to provide, not inhibit it.

This was an extreme example, but there are other examples of horrendous care provided in NHS hospitals, many relating to nurses feeling they are above lowly duties such as cleaning up after ill patients.

Much of this is attributed to a lack of money being spent on employing more nurses. In this era of austerity, many people simply accuse the government  of not spending enough on health.

However, the last Labour government oversaw a huge increase in health spending and the standards of care were still slipping.  The main problem is a lack of compassion and caring, in a society in which it seems fewer and fewer people are willing to go the extra mile without any more money. More staff would not help a hospital if the new staff were still lacking in care.

Perhaps nursing should require more than just the education but some form of personality test to ensure the graduates are the right kind of caring and loving people needed in the job. All too often candidates for any job can appear to be one thing on paper while they are not suitable at all once they are in the job.

Nursing has moved on from the role of mainly cleaning wards and looking after the patients and this is no bad thing.  However, I feel that modern nursing graduates need to ensure they haven’t forgotten about traditional and essential values of care and compassion. Cleaning and caring for patients are not beneath any member of staff, and are arguably the most important jobs.

Jake Hookem

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