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Do nurses care?

By Wilfred McSherry


Almost on a daily basis the tabloids and media have some negative comment or observation to make about the dreadful state of the National Health Service (NHS) and the atrocious standards of care that patients receive at the hands of NHS nurses.

There is no escaping the fact that there has been a steady flow of published reports highlighting the dreadful, neglectful and it must be stated downright cruel treatment some patients have received at the hands of nurses. The culmination of such allegations was the publication of the Public Inquiry into The Mid Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust on 6 February 2013.

However, to brand all nurses as uncaring is unjustified and totally unacceptable. While it would be wrong and indeed naïve to ignore the findings from the reports and the public inquiry there is a need for balance and moderation; the nursing profession has taken a beating, many nurses are feeling disillusioned and fatigued by the constant and relentless barrage of criticisms and negativity. The image and confidence of nursing and nurses has been crushed and is at an all time low.

Not everything is bad on the contrary there is evidence that demonstrates that nurses do care and are caring and that the general public do have confidence in the vast majority of nurse. The National summary of the results for the 2012 Inpatients survey provides valuable evidence that counteracts the negativity offering a a more positive and realistic impression:

“Eighty percent of respondents reported that, overall, they were “always” treated with respect and dignity while they were in hospital, up from 79% in 2011. There was a corresponding decrease in the proportion who said this was “sometimes” the case from 18% in 2011 to 17% in 2012. Three percent said they did not feel they were treated with respect and dignity.”

Similarly, findings from the survey demonstrate that despite the negative image of nurses the general public do have confidence in the nursing profession:

Over three quarters of respondents (76%) said that they “always” had confidence and trust in the nurses treating them, an improvement from 74% in 2011. There had been a corresponding decrease in the proportion who respond “sometimes” (22% in 2011 and 20% in 2012) or “no” (4% in 2011 and3% in 2012).

These findings affirm that the vast majority of nurses do care and that the contribution nurses’ make is valued by a large section of the general public. However, the survey reveals that a small percentage of patients do not have confidence and trust in the nurses caring for them — so what can nurses do to improve the patient experience and patient satisfaction?

We would like to offer the following words of encouragement:

  • Despite recent criticism the evidence suggests that the vast majority of nurses do care and are caring. Therefore, nurses need to remain optimistic, recognising and celebrating the positive contribution that they make to people’s lives.
  • Caring cultures are created and constructed by those who lead, manage and govern. Nurses must support and value each other and fundamentally organisations must acknowledge and affirm the unique contribution nurses make in the provision of care
  • There is nothing basic that nurses do! Nursing needs nurses, individuals possessing the requisite knowledge, attitudes and skills to safeguard the fundamentals of nursing care.
  • Nurses need to be allowed to care. There needs to be an overhaul and removal of the unnecessary bureaucracy that stifles nurses preventing them from caring and being with patients.


Finally, watch the following YouTube clip taken from the Royal College of Nursing Congress held in Liverpool 2013.

Molly Case presents the poem titled ‘Nursing the nation’. Molly personifies all the attributes espoused in the new strategy and vision for nursing launched in England in December 2012 — Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage, Commitment — affirming that the future of nursing is safe and that most nurses do care and want to care!

Wilfred McSherry is Professor in Dignity of Care for Older People, Centre for Practice and Service Improvement at the Faculty of Health Staffordshire University and The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust UK and Part-Time Professor at Haraldsplass Deaconess University College, Bergen, Norway. He is the co-editor of Care in Nursing: Principles, Values, and Skills with Robert MSherry and Roger Watson.

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Image credit: Japanese Nurse. © masahironakano via iStockphoto.

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