A Policy Approach to Dignity

Imagine my sheer unadulterated delight on being told a dignity policy was being introduced at the hospital where I had to misfortune to find myself recently. The health professional offered this in response to hearing about my experience; she did not make eye contact as she relayed the news. Nor was she receptive to my comment that I had been encouraged to complain. ‘The thing is nothing changes’ was her answer.

So we left it at that. When driving home I was thinking about a public service that had to consider introducing a policy on dignity; how did we end up here? One assumes that no-one decided one day to treat patients without dignity or respect. Matron certainly might have been a bossy lady a la Hattie Jacques and her management style probably wasn’t enabling but her wards were clean tight ship affairs.

Searching for a definition of dignity I came across the Royal College of Nursing’s definition of dignity: Dignity is concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves and others. To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals. I can’t argue with that but it certainly is the experience of many customers of the NHS; why is this?

I could be a little frivolous and say an establishment that makes nursing staff wear unflattering Smurf suits (the name came from one of the nurses) might want to take the dignity of their staff a little more seriously. But of course the need to maintain hygiene in a clinical environment has to take precedence. The nurse I saw this week had obviously put her full (winter – heavy on the foundation) make-up whilst wearing something with a higher neck line; the smurf suits have a v-neck!

A few years ago I was part of a team looking at Art and Health and I distinctly remember the staff, working in a new cancer unit, saying that the new premises made them feel better about themselves and their job. The environment was pleasant for both patients and staff. Whilst I might hate being in a hospital at least I don’t have to spend my life working in one.

It seems to me that it’s all connected to the recent controversy about the training of nurses in universities thereby turning a vocation into a profession. Surely the two need not be mutually exclusive; why can’t a vocation i.e. something one does for the love of it be delivered professionally i.e. to the highest standard? If someone needs help and I can help I do; usually. I tend not to think before leaping in which can, on occasions, not exactly improve the situation!

On a slightly linked matter the other evening the door bell rang and I didn’t immediately answer it as I had my hands full besides which I wasn’t expecting anyone. Curiosity got the better of me as I’m pretty sure whoever it was had also knocked the letterbox.  Reaching to untie my apron as I walked towards the door I nearly got a mouthful of carpet as I  misjudged the step – I might be sensible enough to wear an apron but I’m not about to let anyone see me thus attired!

As I got to the hall way I saw the Christmas lorry pass the house escorted by numerous people in Santa hats and tabards emblazoned with the logo of the  local Lions. I had reached for my wallet thinking it could be the window cleaner so I was in a position to put coins in the bucket. Did I? No I confess I turned off the lights and slipped back into the kitchen closing the door behind me!




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Filed under Musings of a Contemporary Spinster

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