Healthcare assistants are an essential part of the Nursing team, they do a fantastic job and are the unsung heroes of healthcare.
Please don’t forget to appreciate your healthcare assistants, clinical support workers or carers – stop and say Thank you.
Help whenever possible
Nurses are always busy, from the moment their feet hit the floor until their shift has finished. Healthcare assistants are usually just as busy, running from one patient to the next and answering buzzers – don’t underestimate their workload.
Just because your workload has eased doesn’t mean the rest of the team isn’t struggling.
Help with observations, personal care or changing bed linen as often an you can. Not only will this show them you care, it keeps you in touch with basic care and you’ll earn the respect of everybody around you.
Listen to their observations
It is usually a healthcare assistant who notices when a patient ‘just doesn’t look right’. If they notice a patient is acting funny, their observations are changing, or something just isn’t right, it is the nurse’s job to respect that observation and investigate.
The assessment of a patient is one of those tasks that cannot be delegated, but this doesn’t mean that a care assistant can’t notice problems and escalate them to you. Ignoring these escalations could lead to poorer patient outcomes and a sense of disrespect for the healthcare assistant.
You should empower your healthcare assistants to be your eyes and ears. If they think something if wrong – listen and investigate.
Appreciate their skill-set
Healthcare assistants and clinical support workers have started to undertake lot of advanced roles for little or no extra reward; venepuncture, cannulation, ECGs, catheterisation, feeding, wound assessments, pressure area care – list is endless.
If they help you out by doing one of these for you, make sure you say thank you. Generally these ‘extra roles’ are not within their job description so are performing these tasks out of choice.
Treat them as one of the team
You communicate with the doctors, the patients, the family, and other nurses, but how well do you communicate with your healthcare assistants?
Care assistants are a vital part of the team, not only for the work they do and the observations they make, but because the whole system would fall apart without them.
There is no proverbial ‘i’ in team.
Include healthcare assistants in care planning and ask their opinion. They have a wealth of knowledge that should be respected. See ‘Listen to their observations’.
Don’t take them for granted
Nurses know very well what it is like to have someone look past you, to feel like you don’t matter, and that your input isn’t valuable or welcome.
Healthcare assistants are the backbone of the NHS. They are responsible for the dirtiest jobs, the most difficult ratios, and get the least amount of pay and respect.
Nurses don’t like to be taken for granted by doctors and management. Passing this cycle of disrespect down the chain of command doesn’t help anyone and makes people feel undervalued.
Say ‘Thank You’
Those two words mean a lot!
A simple ‘thank you’ lifts the morale of, not only the healthcare assistants, but your whole team. It can make a massive difference even after those exhausting shifts.
‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’
The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.
Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.
While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.
In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.
Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.
Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.
There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?
The unseen workforce.
Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.
Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?
With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.
The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.
While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.
A self-perpetuating cycle.
With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.
Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.
The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.
Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.
A fresh start?
I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.
Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.
I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.
Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).
A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.
The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.
I also mentioned I am nervous.
Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.
Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.
I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.
And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.
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