New nurses should be judged on their compassion not just their skills, according to Sir Keith Pearson, chairman of the NHS Confederation. He’s been addressing the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual conference in Harrogate, and is one of the authors of a critical report into standards of care for older people and is expected to call for big changes in the way staff are recruited.
In response to the statement Steve Fouch, Secretary of Christian Nurses and Midwives, said:
‘Sir Keith Pearson’s view, aired at the RCN National Congress today, that compassion counts as much as technical skill in nursing, should come as no surprise.
‘However, in our target dominated NHS, the human dimension of care is often the last element to be remembered. We have seen the consequences of that in a series of shocking reports from the CareQuality Commission (CQC) and the Equality & Human Rights Commission over the last twelve months.
‘As well as being compassionate to patients, we also need to be caring for our staff who are struggling to give good care with inadequate staffing, in an NHS where radical structural changes are dictated more by efficiency than compassion.
‘Christian nurses in particular need to be supported by their churches; to be caring for one another, their colleagues and managers; and showing the love of Christ to all, not just to their patients.’
Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, said:
‘We welcome this fresh emphasis on rediscovering compassion in nursing but nursing also needs to rediscover the spiritual roots that gave it compassion in the first place. Modern nursing was born in the nineteenth-century, in no small measure due to the work of Christians like Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale.
‘Their revolution in the practice of nursing also included making it a more socially acceptable pursuit for women. Their response to the Christian call to care for the sick and educate neglected children provided the templates for modern daily hospital nursing. Florence Nightingale also encouraged better hygiene, improved standards and night-nursing, as well as founding the first nursing school.
‘Nurses gained professional status at the end of the century, largely thanks to thework of another Christian nurse, Ethel Bedford Fenwick, with the majority of nurses being inspired to serve by Christian ethics. Many missionary nurses such as Mother Teresa and Emma Cushman have worked tirelessly, bringing hygiene and Western medicine to the four corners of the globe.
‘You can’t create compassion in a vacuum. It has to be motivated by a worldview which supports it. Many modern nurses do not have such a worldview and so lack the passionate commitment to sacrificial care that pioneers like Fry and Nightingale possessed in such measure. Nursing needs to rediscover its Christian roots or the present crisis in care will continue.’