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Permission to be proud

Permission to be proud
Photo: University of Derby Online Learning
Gemma Sinead Ryan, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at University of Derby Online Learning comments.

Here at the University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) we aim to be thought leaders, as healthcare professionals and academics. The education of healthcare professionals is my ‘work’ and has been for many years.

During the process of conducting research interviews and defining the concept of professional accountability with my students, it has led me to the conclusion that accountability is inherently linked with professional pride. Being proud of our profession facilitates high quality and accountable practitioners who are confident to challenge and focus on the collective aim of their profession. We have to openly and habitually value ourselves. 

The Cambridge English dictionary defines pride as,
“…a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”.

How good are we at being proud? 
As healthcare professionals we are often subject to both negative and positive feedback within the workplace but also through mass media. Certainly, broadsheets frequently report on ‘poor care and services,’ ‘cuts to funding,’ ‘cuts to treatment and services,’ and the ‘risks’ of these.

Emotive words such as ‘targets missed,’ ‘shortfalls,’ ‘lives at risk,’ ‘alarm,’ are just some examples from one publication in one day. How often does the media report on the great things that happen every minute of every day that may far outweigh any negatives?  

The impact of such publications can often be far more wide reaching than which is observed; the public are often highly influenced by such media. On a daily basis, many of us face limited resource, short staffing, emotional stress, complex situations, the accountability and responsibility for high quality care coupled with economic and political challenges. If asked, most of us will say we are proud, we can state what is right and wrong, we think but we rarely speak.
Furthermore, I believe that actions speak louder than words and we don’t act anywhere near enough. This is not a criticism, it’s an observation.

Our job is to care; compassionately, effectively, fairly and with quality. Our lives are spent putting patients, families and communities at the centre of what we do. It’s easy to see how being a healthcare professional is a pressured, often selfless role; despite this, we are all healthcare professionals for a reason, and this reason keeps us caring. It’s easy to see why we forget who we are and that we just see it as our job.  But it’s more than that, and we know this – so why don’t we say it?

The term ennobling is synonymous with dignity, honour, raise and enhance. Conversely, these terms are synonymous with quality, higher standards and improvement and what industry does not want these?

I argue that we spend too little time ennobling ourselves and this impacts on our ability to care, improve and deliver. That’s not to say we are bad at what we do, I’m saying we could be better and that we should aspire to be better! If only we recognised our own importance and gave each other permission to do so.

We are ‘hard wired’ to focus on others, forgetting what it really means to be in our profession(s) – to be proud of being the professionals we are. In the armed forces, members are frequently reminded of their importance, their function and their purpose. This makes them collectively stronger and highly focused not just within their unit but when working with armed forces across the globe, often in highly stressful and challenging situations. 

Conversely, they are empowered to challenge those who do not conform to these principles; those who may break the collective ethos and ultimately impact on ‘quality’ and ‘collective pride’. They are loyal to their team but also to their profession. Am I saying healthcare professionals should be more like the armed forces? Not entirely. But I do argue that it’s not about the ward, the team, the hospital; it’s about us as a profession and the care we provide.  It shouldn’t matter where you are and who you are working with. 

I therefore ask:
How often are we given permission to be proud of what we do on a day to day basis; the little things and the big things?
And how often does this permission come from within our profession? 
If we cannot give ourselves permission to be proud how can we expect others to ennoble us?  Pride comes from those around us, because of the good things we do every minute, every day. 

And if we are proud to be professionals and we ennoble ourselves then we will collectively have more pride and this will have a positive effect on quality of care and us as individuals. I argue that this will empower us to challenge that which needs to be challenged but collective pride will raise our morale, raise our standards and improve care. 

The impact of collective pride has been evidenced through social media only recently with thousands of NHS staff sharing pictures of themselves at work during the night, during weekends and on bank holidays. Simply in response to a comment made by a politician that doctors should be providing care 24/7. Why does it take a negative comment for us to share our voice collectively? We should share the good things we do widely regardless of our place of work and team we work in.

I challenge every healthcare professional to give permission to be proud. Once, twice, how every many times you feel. For the little things, for the big things, for the things we do routinely every day. Have a noticeboard, have stickers or just say it!  Let’s be proud to be healthcare professionals, focus on the positives, on the successes and leave our workplace every day with a positive thought and ask – what can I be proud of today? 

For more information about studying Nursing at UDOL, go to: http://www.derby.ac.uk/online/health-and-psychology-degree

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