Melanie Philips has written a piece in the Mail Online blaming university training and a quest to gain the same status as doctors for the poor state of the UK public hospital system and the systematic erosion of the nursing profession.
Ms Philips has not been impressed with the state of nursing ever since she was immersed in a hospital system during her mothers battle with Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis over ten years ago.
And ten years later, and she is certain things have become worse.
Last week, a devastating report detailing what can only be described as the widespread collapse of the ethic of nursing was produced by the Care Quality Commission.
This revealed that more than half of all hospitals in England do not meet standards for the dignity and nutrition of elderly people. One in five hospitals were found to be failing the elderly so badly that they were breaking the law.
In hospitals where essential standards were not met, inspectors found that patients’ call bells had been placed out of reach or were not responded to quickly enough, or staff were talking to patients in a condescending or dismissive way.
In one hospital, inspectors witnessed a patient being made to go to the lavatory in full view of the rest of the ward. In another, doctors had to prescribe water to make sure that patients did not become dehydrated.
These horrifying revelations do not signify merely incompetence nor — that perennial excuse — the effect of ‘the cuts’.
No, they illustrate instead something infinitely grimmer: the replacement of altruism by indifference, and compassion by cruelty.
Ms Philips harks back to the good old days of Florence Nightingale when nursing was seen as a profession and a duty to put the patient before any self interests. She suggests that during the eighties, nursing leaders decided that ‘caring’ had become a dirty word as it had now positioned them as nursemaid’s to the doctors.
To achieve professional equality with doctors, nurse training was taken away from the hospitals and turned into an academic university subject.
Since caring for patients was demeaning to women, it could no longer be the cardinal principle of nursing. Instead, the primary goal became to realise the potential of the nurse to achieve equality with men.
Now, I think Ms Philips has got a little bit right and a whole lot wrong here.
It kind of bristles my buttocks hairs to read someone bashing our profession with such a broadsword brush.
Let me tell you.
Comparing the demands placed on today’s nurses whom are immersed up to tops of their well engorged bladders in a complex, technology rich and time/resource poor environment, to the situation back in Florence’s day is just plain old silly. Stop it.
Running the tired old track that nurses should be called to service by some divine power ( latin: vocare as in vocation) and that other motivations, such as job security, career pathway or (heaven forbid) wanting to earn some sort of decent wage to support their own families is an anathema to the profession are just belittling and demeaning.
But go back and read the article again. And tell me there isn’t some bitter truth between the lines.
I think it is true we may have lost our way, just a little.
But not for the reasons Ms Philips thinks.
It is not the nurses struggling to be like doctors that is the problem.
The problem is that we are struggling to be like nurses.
The sooner that the health system, the public and our profession are prepared to recognise the incandescent importance of those very bedside nursing arts that Ms Philips feels are so eroded, not just with lip service, not just with some sort of dreamy vocational expectation, but with appropriate resources and clinical support, and recognition, and financial acknowledgement of their actual worth…..the sooner we can begin to get back on track.
You might like to read: