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Would-be Nurses Should be Tested for Compassion to Avoid Future Patient Suffering, Nursing Expert Warns

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Prospective trainee nurses should be assessed for kindness, compassion, emotional intelligence and confidence to ensure they are up to the job and to avoid a repeat of failures that led to patient deaths at Stafford Hospital, a nurse educator has warned.

Writing in today’s Nursing Times, Dr Jan Quallington, Head of the University of Worcester’s Institute of Health and Society, argues that the most fundamental part of nursing - caring and showing compassion for patients – has suffered because of increasing demands on hospitals and nurses and that this trend can and must be reversed.

Dr Quallington, who has 30 years experience in nursing, had made her comments as Robert Francis QC prepares to publish a report into the Stafford Hospital scandal, in which up to 1,200 people died as a result of poor treatment.

The report is expected to call for better training for nurses and healthcare assistants, as well as better ways of dealing with poor managers.

Dr Quallington says that the knowledge required of today’s nurses demands at least a degree-level qualification, and insists that patient care should be a central element of all degree programmes.

“Patients should be confident that every hospital worker, be they doctors, nurses or other allied professionals, has the right attitude towards care, as well as appropriate knowledge and skills based on the most up-to-date scientific knowledge,” she writes.

The University of Worcester, which received a 100 per cent student satisfaction rating in last year’s National Student Survey, making it the top rated nursing degree in the UK, uses panels of nurse academics, patient representatives and clinicians to agree that every candidate for its nursing programmes has the potential to be a good caring nurse.

It also teaches students to accept personal responsibility for judging the care standards they witness when they spend time in hospitals, GP surgeries and treatment centres as part of their courses, and supports them if they raise concerns.

Dr Quallington argues that patient needs are becoming more complex, with an increasing number suffering from dementia alongside their physical illness, which means staff are more under pressure than ever before.

She adds: “It is vital that students are equipped to question practice and are supported to challenge the sub-standard.”

Managers, as well as nurses, must keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, through professional updating and ongoing staff development, she writes.

“Good clinical leaders are essential if we are to ensure that consistently high standards and good quality care are provided at the bedside.”