This site is intended for health professionals only

‘Different approach’ needed to support nurses to speak up

‘Different approach’ needed to support nurses to speak up
Samantha Spence

Nurses have signalled their support for a ‘different approach’ to enabling nurses to safely speak up and raise workplace concerns.

A debate at this year’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in Wales saw nursing staff vote for RCN Council to lobby governments for ‘more support for nursing staff raising concerns’.

Leading the discussion, chair of the RCN Outer North West London Branch, Samantha Spence said multiple reviews – including Mid Staffs – had highlighted ‘time and time again that harm would have been prevented if concerns that had been raised were listened to and acted on’.

‘Despite this, those who tried to speak up often find themselves ignored or victimised,’ added Ms Spence, who said this seemed ‘a very visible problem’.

‘Personally, I think it’s time to lobby for a different approach of support for nursing staff in raising concerns, independent from our employer, and in a safe way,’ she told the conference.

Nurse Becky Thomas, from an RCN inner London branch, said it was ‘crucial’ to create conditions that ‘allow’ people to speak up and that ‘psychological safety is the cornerstone of all that we do’.

‘Silence is not safe, speaking up is,’ she added.

Meanwhile, Kathryn McCreedy – who has been an RCN steward for just over a year – said she it was ‘really concerned’ that nurses and health professionals ‘still don’t feel comfortable to raise concerns’.

From speaking with members, she said themes that emerged included ‘disbelief that anything would happen’ if concerns were raised, as well as fear of being ‘singled out’ or labelled a ‘troublemaker’.

‘I think culture needs to change across healthcare services, in general,’ said Ms McCreedy.

‘My passion is really to empower those people to make sure that their concerns are raised and to make sure they’re not penalised.’

Zeba Arif from the RCN Mental Health Forum said it ‘can feel daunting to voice something negative’.

She turned to the RCN Council within the conference hall and said: ‘You have to hear our plea and lobby the government. They have to actively encourage all healthcare professionals to speak up and be heard.’

Nursing student Natasha Green suggested ‘a lot’ of students do not feel they can raise concerns on clinical placements.

‘We do see bad practise, yet we can’t raise that as a concern without backlash from universities, without threatened fitness to practise or reducing [placement] hours,’ she said.

Dr Nicola Dunlop, from the RCN’s Inner North Central London branch, also said a ‘fear of victimisation’ means ‘many people choose not to speak up’.

The resolution – That this meeting of RCN Congress asks RCN Council to lobby governments for more support for nursing staff raising concerns – was passed by voting members.

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom