My Dad’s A Goldfish – It’s not just me!

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The Goldfish in his chair enjoying a visit from a neighbour’s cat.

I’m interrupting the chronology of the Goldfish’s lengthy stay in hospital to share some words from the chief nursing officer in Scotland, Professor Fiona McQueen.

Often I feel I am a grumpy old woman, always complaining about nursing staff (and often some doctors and care agency staff) who don’t listen, are not professional and seem to have little or no understanding of patient care. I was delighted, therefore, to read first in the newspaper and then on her blog that it’s not just me. Someone a lot higher up the food chain has also noticed, publicly commented and expressed a desire to see things change.

In her New Year blog post Professor McQueen gives examples of the kind of bad practices she has witnessed during 2015 and writes: “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.”

As you might expect there has been a fair amount of outrage at her words from nursing staff and from their union. Gordon McKay, a registered nurse and chairman of Unison in NHS Ayrshire says: “My experience is that nurses work unpaid, way beyond their contracted hours to provide world-class care rather than ‘nipping off for breaks’ as is claimed, and that nurses speak to patients and relatives with the greatest of respect and kindness…”

Well, Mr McKay, threatening to call a patient pishy-pants is neither respectful nor kind.

The outraged ones don’t seem to have noticed Fiona McQueen also says: “I have met some outstanding nurses and midwives and hear of examples of care being delivered that is so good it’s breath taking.”

This is something many of us on this and other blogs have discussed and we’ve all said that there are nurses (and carers) who are wonderful and do a fantastic job – but they should not be the exception to the rule. I am sure many good nurses must be cheering (even if they have to cheer in private) with relief at Fiona McQueen’s words. How disheartening it must be to see colleagues bring your profession into disrepute.

Professor June Andrews, a registered nurse and director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University has given her support to the chief nursing officer’s words. She says: “As a hard-working nurse, knowing that other nurses and midwives who, not for want of resources but because of attitude, bring down the profession, I would be glad to have them outed.”

The day after the story appeared in a national newspaper Fiona McQueen issued an apology saying she had not intended to offend hardworking nurses. I don’t think it IS the hardworking nurses who will be offended and I salute Professor McQueen for telling it as it is and for wanting all nursing staff to work together to eradicate bad practice.

You can read Fiona McQueen’s blog post here.

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20 thoughts on “My Dad’s A Goldfish – It’s not just me!

  1. Good to hear. I have to say that in my experience the good nurses are exceptional…the ones who go that extra mile to ensure the patient’s wellbeing on all levels and that includes looking out for the families too. The worst are those agency nurses, brought in with no understanding of the individual patients and their needs… not the ones who cover shifts at the drop of a hat, but those contracted in bulk to make up staff and save money by certain hospitals. One in particular, I can think of, where the care was so appalling I was obliged to complain about even the most basic levels of human decency being ignored and an official investigation was opened… and returned with umpteen excuses and no action.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really admire her for writing as she has – she must have known she’d get some flak for it. If things are to change for the better there has to be more openness and honesty.
      Trying to get anything investigated by the NHS is a nightmare. I’ve just read Joshua’s Story by James Titcombe whose son died at 9 days. When he started asking questions he realised things were being covered up – took him six years to finally uncover everything

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      • Yes, it takes a lot of guts to write as she did… but someone with a loud enough public voice needs to do so.

        Frankly, six years doesn’t surprise me. The layers of protection around ‘the system’ are so dense…

        Liked by 1 person

    • She apparently raised the matter with the nurse’s line manager so hopefully some action has been taken. As others have said there are some fantastic nurses who treat patients and families with respect – but there are some who don’t seem to understand the concept of respect. And I do wonder if it is possible to change attitudes, especially towards patients with dementia and their families.

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  2. I’m with you all the way on this. Why should we accept poor service from professional staff? I’ve had a social worker taken off the case here. She dumped my wife at a Day Centre after telling her she was just taking her out for a ride in her car. In my view she should have been dismissed for terrifying my poor wife: completet negligence! Maureen thought she’d been dumped at a Mental Assylum and gave it me for conspiring in such plans.

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    • That’s appalling behaviour from the social worker. She clearly has no understanding of dementia. Maureen must have been distraught at being left in a strange place amidst strangers.
      I only met dad’s social worker once and she was useless, hadn’t even read the case notes, but we were extremely lucky in that the care co-ordinator who worked with us was excellent. Can’t say the same for the care agency who would send people dad had never met before and expect him to be happy to be stripped naked and put under the shower by a stranger.
      Worst, though, was the times he was in hospital and we couldn’t seem to make the staff understand what it means to have dementia. Things like leaving a specimen bottle on his trolley and telling him to put a urine sample in it next time he went to the loo. He forgot the instruction ten seconds after it was given and didn’t remember where the toilet was. He had an accident which was mortifying for him and when we went in the nurse said he was incontinent and they’d given him pads to wear. All because no one thought this man might have a problem processing and remembering information because he has dementia so we should offer to show him again (and again and again) where the toilet is… Okay, off my soapbox now. I just hope the chief nursing officer’s blog post will at least make people in the NHS start to admit there are problems and think about how to address them.

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  3. I certainly got the feeling when my Dad was ill that some medical staff treat families as part of the problem not part of the solution. The psychiatrist kept talking about their ‘multidisciplinary team’ and I wanted to shout ‘why is my mum not part of your multidisciplinary team seeing as she’s the greatest living expert on my dad?’ But no, they were determined to ignore her input and simply didn’t listen to what she had to say.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Sally. Your mum must have been pretty hacked off at her input being ignored when she’s the one who knows her husband better than anyone. It is as if they – the medical experts – see the patient as a body/mind with something wrong, an entity which is completely separate from family. The experts will put it right by consulting their text books.

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  4. All very familiar. My whole family has been treated badly, including me. But then when you come across an ‘angel’, it’s incredible. But it’s so infrequent as to make ‘the caring profession’ a ludicrous phrase. My experience has been that there are more ‘angels’ in Intensive Care and A&E than anywhere else.

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    • I think you are right about there being more ‘angels’ in A&E (have little experience of intensive care). Maybe it’s because in A&E they are so busy and so focussed on what needs to be done immediately. It’s when the patient is on the ward it seems to fall down – when nurses forget to make sure a patient can eat unaided or needs help, when they tell the patient to drink plenty of fluids and leave the pastic cup of water just out of reach (ignoring the flavoured water and squash families have brought in to make drinking fluids more palatable). Oh, I don’t know how it will change – so many stories of incompetence. And so many stories of the wonderful nurses being the exception to the rule.

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  5. I’m sure that changes to the nursing career structure (where knowing how to write essays seems more important than doing practical things and having common sense) and the cuts in budget don’t help. For my part, as a doctor who no longer works in the NHS (or as a doctor at all) I must confess to becoming fed-up with commissioners only being interested in paperwork and money saving exercises, and no emphasis being placed in looking after the patients. I haven’t worked in an old-age ward for years although I met great nurses (I’m referring specifically to psychiatric nurses) at the time, but there’s nothing worse than proper care not being given to patients who’re not able to explain their needs. I always thought that advocates had a role to play in such cases (rather than necessarily propitiating the issues of the people who scream the loudest and who are more than able to speak for themselves).

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    • Thanks for commenting, Olga. You are so right about changes in the career structure. I’d rather a nurse who had bags of common sense and was practical (a bit of empathy doesn’t go amiss, either) than one who has handed in A+ essays on the theory of nursing. I may be shot down in flames here but I really believe nursing was better (a sweeping generality, I know) in the days before degrees were considered essential. The shift in focus from looking after patients to doing masses of paperwork and worrying about budget cuts doesn’t help either.
      At least we were able to speak up on behalf of my dad but many people don’t have families to do that. We heard of a resident who had dementia being sent in the middle fo the night from a care home to the hospital without anyone accompanying her. She was confused and upset, couldn’t answer any of the nurse or doctor’s questions.
      It is easy to see the problems but not so easy to find solutions.

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  6. I’ve had a few stays in hospital and this is spot on – there are some fabulous nurses out there – and docs of course – but there are too many who just don’t seem to like patients. Last stay was a weekend one, fell out of my wheelchair in the garden, moving electric fencing for the horses, forgot i only had one leg and smashed my hip and the four inches of bone left on that side…ambulance guys were great, emergency staff too, but of course when it came to mending me there was a hiccup as usual methods wouldn’t work, so I was dosed up with morphine and sent to a ward til they’d found a way and staff to do it. 28 hours later I went fir surgery, but in the meantime the staff were wonderful even when they had to turn me to rub to prevent bedsores. morphine or not that Hurt. After the op i was a bit groggy, and on oxygen, nurse explained my lung had collapsed so I had to stay sitting up and on the oxygen. Don’t know about you but I can’t sleep like that so was watching tv at 9 pm when the night sister came over, announced i was disturbing others, even though I’d got curtains drawn and earphones in, and switched off tv and told me to sleep….then decamped to staff rom with others. One poor lady was calling for help as no-one answered her bell and it took ages before anyone came, then she was reprimanded for not asking for loo when someone was doing rounds. any patient knows not to argue, when you can’t walk this gets more important as you’ll find wheelchair moved out of reach, call buttons moved from bed to table, just where you can’t get them etc. Sadly I’ve had all of that and I’m a quiet private person not a rabble rouser! Next morning new sister came round to meet each patient, night sister told her my info and I said I was going home that day ( as my home is wheelchair friendly no need for convalescent stay etc and consultant had said home on monday) “we’ll see about that” night sis said with a huff.
    The new sister was like a whirlwind, demanded maintenance fix the broken window ( beside me!) letting in rain all weekend, it was done by lunchtime, send elderly lady in next bed for x ray, she was told on sat could go once it checked, she was out by 11 am, lady in opposite bed got ice for her swollen leg, she’d been asking all weekend, and – I got to go home as planned. Good staff are to be treasured, they’re doing a job, yes, but its how they do it, with a smile and some motivation, not a surgly grount and treat patient as an imposition.
    and that’s my rant over 🙂 sorry.

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    • Thanks so much for commenting on this post – and don’t apologise for your rant. Funnily enough I heard a programme on the radio this morning in which NHS staff were discussing the things going wrong in nursing. One nurse said she felt there was now far too much focus on the academic side of things and newly qualified nurses couldn’t be left without supervision because they don’t know how to do the simplest of things like washing a bowl! Another said she fetl too many people were going in for nursing with no sense of vocation and totally wrong attitude towards patients.
      I think maybe it’s time we did away with the nurses are all angels myth and face up to the fact there are problems which need to be addressed. I know what you mean about finding the wheelchair out of reach as well as the call buttons. Once when dad was particularly confused and not understanding where he was or why he was there he decided to leave. He dressed himself, borrowed another patients’ walking sticks, packed his bag and headed out of the ward. The nurse brought him back. He tried again and this time they put his clothes and bag behind the locker so he couldn’t reach them – couldn’t even see where they were. So, one elderly man with dementia is made even more confused and anxious because on top of everything else someone has ‘stolen’ his clothes and personal items. Still, the nurses didn’t have to chase after him! I know it’s hard work and they have more than enough to do but we’d offered to stay with him and weren’t allowed.
      The really good nurses must get so depressed at what the rubbish ones are doing. We shouldn’t be relieved when we come across any of the brilliant nurses – their standards should be the norm. At least now the problems are being more widely and openly discussed there may be a chance things will improve.

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