Smile please, nurse!

Following a 6-month inquiry in 2007 on how to improve the National Health Service (NHS) (and patients' organisations urging action over an apparent decline in nursing care since the domination of the hospital matron was curtailed) one of the proposals put in a Downing Street Cabinet meeting was that doctors and nurses should smile more.

Now a pioneering pilot training scheme is underway in Stockport Hospital, Greater Manchester, which aims to put smiles on nurses’ faces when working with patients – and more. Under a new edict, nurses are to be banned from discussing personal matters, except during breaks, or to speak loudly during night shifts. Another point: Never promise a patient ‘I’ll be back in a minute’ if you cannot return do that.
The Patients’ Association (PA) reported that patients felt nurses had lost the ‘caring touch’. Many, for example, claimed to be ‘too busy’ to properly feed the elderly, resulting in malnutrition, whilst others refused to take on cleaning tasks.
However, the reaction of the Royal College of Nursing was that it is insulting to suggest that nurses do not smile enough.
Also on the side of nurses, Michael Summers, Vice-Chair of the PA’s Board of Trustees, pointed out that they now work under considerable pressure, so can lose touch with some patients’ needs. ‘Nurses also qualify in primarily academic degree courses,’ he pointed out, ‘so when they start nursing many lack day-to-day nursing skills.’


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