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Opinion

Why I hate being called “Nurse”

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My day always started my day with the same routine – walking into my bay, turning on the lights and introducing myself – “Good Morning Everyone. My name is Matt and I’m your Nurse for today“. This would then be followed by helping everyone out of bed for breakfast whilst having a bit of a natter.

I admit, hate is a strong word – I’d just rather be called by my name!

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It was my favourite part of the day. I love my job, I love nursing and I especially love speaking to my patients! People who know me will vouch for the fact that I love to talk! 

In recent years it has been argued that using first names in healthcare could be seen as a sign of disrespect and staff should be addressed by their titles; Doctor, Nurse, Sister etc. I strongly disagree with this.

My name is Matt not Nurse, Staff or any derivative of the two. I, in fact, take it as a massive compliment that someone learns and remembers my name; staff, patients, relatives or whoever.

The importance of using first names and introducing yourself to patients has been backed up by the #HelloMyNameIs campaign started by Dr Kate Granger, a Doctor who has experienced the NHS first hand after being diagnosed with cancer. Kate explains that the people looking after her didn’t introduce themselves before providing care.

“This felt very wrong so encouraged and supported by my husband we decided to start a campaign to encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in the delivery of care. I firmly believe it is not just about knowing someone’s name, but it runs much deeper. It is about making a human connection, beginning a therapeutic relationship and building trust. In my mind it is the first rung on the ladder to providing compassionate care.”

It appears to not only the case for nurse to patient relationships but also for all interprofessional communication.The Patient Safety and Quality Council (2013) of New Zealand have demonstrated that being on a first name basis with your team improves productivity, team cohesion and remove barriers to effective care (2) (3).

I feel that being able to use first names encourages approachability and breaks down the barriers to escalating concerns and seeking advice – “Hi Matt, will you take a look at this patient for me” etc.

Reducing barriers to effective communication and escalation was something highlighted in the Mid-Staffs Enquiry and then the Francis Report and should be of paramount importance to all trusts at the moment.

Even as my career further develops, I’ll always be just Matt, no matter what.

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Opinion

‘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”.

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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.

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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.

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Opinion

A fresh start?

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RCN Congress

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.

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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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