Scotland's chief nursing officer highlights 'rude' NHS staff in blog

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Scotland's chief nursing officer has highlighted examples of rude behaviour she has encountered from staff on the country's hospital wards.

In a blog post, Prof Fiona McQueen said her one wish for the year ahead would be "professionalism".

And she said staff should always put their patients first and speak to them with "unconditional positive regard".

But she also stressed she had heard examples of care being so good that it was "breath taking".

Prof McQueen believed nurses in leadership roles had to ensure there were enough staff to deliver care safely and effectively.

However, the blog has been criticised by the union Unison saying the vast majority of nurses were professional in their day-to-day work.

In the piece she wrote: "I expect registered nurses to speak to all patients and their families with unconditional positive regard, and never again will a registered nurse say to a patient 'if you wet the bed we'll call you pishy pants'.

"At all times I want nurses and midwives to put their patients first. No skipping off for a break when relatives need to speak to you, or worse when patients should be having their meals served.

"When I ask a mental health nurse what their contribution is to patient care within an in-patient environment, I don't want to hear 'I give out the medicines and go on ward rounds' and be unable to articulate what their unique contribution to care of people is."

Prof McQueen appeared to draw on personal experience when she spoke of entering a postnatal ward to visit a new mother who had been unwell and had her baby delivered at 35 weeks by caesarean section.

Demoralised staff

She wrote: "It would be nice if the midwives would lift their heads and say 'hello' when I entered the ward, or if I asked if I could stay with my niece until the baby's blood sugar results were known (which would have been five minutes after visiting), the midwife wouldn't draw her eyes to the clock and grudgingly say 'yes' then remove my niece's baby without a word of explanation or acknowledgement that mums and babies should be kept together."

However, Prof McQueen said she had met some outstanding nurses and midwives, including undergraduates who "give me real hope that our future is safe in their hands".

She added: "I want every nurse and midwife to have a voice in our future, and be confident that they're being listened to.

"Whether that's in a leadership role, creating the conditions for nurses to flourish and state they have enough time to care for their patients, or in a care delivery role, reassuring an older person that they will be supported to go to the toilet as many times as they need to."

Some of the responses to Prof McQueen's post were positive, with one reader posting that her friends and relatives had encountered similar behaviour and that "kindness, mutual respect and good manners go a long way".

A spokesman for Unison, which represents thousands of health workers, said it accepted that nurses should strive for ever greater levels of professionalism, but that the vast majority of nurses already met their obligations on a daily basis.

He added: "This has caused both lots of chatter and stress amongst already demoralised staff, the majority of them working under extreme pressures with bed occupancy levels which put the entire NHS under extreme pressure."

'Exceptional cases'

In response to the criticism, Prof McQueen wrote that she had confidence in the profession, but "I'm not going to pretend that the examples I gave didn't happen - they did - but they need to stop."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said the chief nursing officer had been highlighting "exceptional cases where treatment fell below what we demand".

The spokeswoman said Prof McQueen was "immensely proud" of the work done by nurses across the NHS, and that the they care they provided was "second to none".

Prof McQueen was appointed as the country's chief nursing officer in March of last year.

Her primary role is to provide professional leadership for nurses and midwives, as well as being responsible for overseeing work to improve cleanliness and infection control in hospital and other healthcare settings.

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