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Nursing Future: Theory vs. Practice

Nursing Future: Theory vs. Practice

On 21 September, 2012, the British Department of Health (DH) released its latest plan for nursing called ‘Developing the Culture of Compassionate Care: creating a new vision for nurses, midwives and care-givers’, which was published online for consultation until 16th November, 2012. The document leaves much to be desired.

To be a nurse, midwife or care-giver is an amazing role. There is hardly an intervention, treatment or care programme in which we do not play a significant part. We provide care, health promotion advice, as well as treatment for ill health. We care for everyone from birth to death in all settings: at home, in primary care, in the community, in care homes and in hospitals. We support the people in our care and their families when they are at their most vulnerable and when clinical expertise, care and compassion matter most. We make contacts with people that count in improving their health and well-being.” - this is the introduction to the 24-page long visionary document prepared by the Department of Health in cooperation with the NHS Commissioning Board. The plan itself has been described as ‘an opportunity to help create a new strategy for nursing, midwifery and care-giving that embeds a culture of compassionate care’ . It has been published in order to open a discussion about how to improve the future of worldwide nursing.

The content consists of four sections, of which only two actually provide any solutions and improvements in nursing: Section Two ‘Behaviours and values’ and Section Three ‘Delivering the Vision’. The former begins by emphasising the 6 most important values and behaviours necessary for performing the duty of a nurse: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage, commitment - all very true but also obvious to everyone who has consciously chosen a nursing career. Of those fundamental values, only communication caused a stormy discussion. To put it in a nutshell, most of the online statements concluded that there is not enough money to provide the necessary equipment for introducing new technology which enables communication with those in need of care.

The latter part of the document, the more pragmatic one, presents 6 so called Action Areas, which suggest priorities in performing the profession in question. According to Action Area nr.1 nurses ought to help people stay independent, maximise their well-being and improve health outcomes by, for example, delivering evidence-based care and extending evidence through research. Action area 2 means working with people to provide a positive experience of care which, according to the authors, may be accomplished by promoting personal responsibility for health and well-being and taking preventative action. Action area 3: ‘Delivering high-quality care and measuring impact’ is reachable by ‘being transparent’ with no further explanation of this phrase whatsoever. The lists goes on: ‘Building and strengthening leadership’, ‘Ensuring that we have the right staff, with the right skills in the right place’, ‘Supporting a positive staff experience’ suggesting all the perfect behaviours without any substantial suggestions of how to apply them in day-to-day work.

The new plan draws a very clear and coherent vision of perfect nursing, no question about it. Published in a modern manner, which allows readers to comment on it, may become an inspiration for future publications of this sort. Nevertheless, the document, full of clichés and obviousness, does not present anything that constitutes real innovation. Not one new solution or suggestion has been taken into consideration. Therefore, it might be considered as a model summary of nursing duties, but certainly not a plan – a descriptive method for achieving a particular goal.