I have often seen this expression relating to qualified nurses but in the last few days, I have seen it mentioned when referring to student nurses. I have been in the presence of many student nurses who see the benefits of providing personal care to patients but unfortunately I have also heard student nurses commenting that ‘they are not there to provide personal care as it is not a nurses job.’ These have been very rare occasions and the belief was challenged immediately by qualified nurses.
Providing personal care to patients is one of the first skills we are taught as student nurses and is possibly one of the easiest to perform. Whether it is assisting to wash someone or performing simple mouth care, we can learn so much about the patient. We can use it as an opportunity to check the patients skin integrity and document any changes to pressure areas. It can be used as a chance to have a chat with a patient to determine what kind of clothes they like to wear or how they like to have their hair styled. The patient may even use this time to express any worries or concerns they may have.
I personally believe that assisting with the needs of patients, such as personal care, is one of the fundamental values of nursing and should be cherished as a time to fully get to assess a patient. Maybe this belief comes from my experience as a care assistant and knowing how much performing these tasks means to an individual, but I feel it is a skill that should be honed by student nurses and continued after qualifying. These skills that we are taught within first year must remain central to our job role as students and qualified nurses.
This is often why student nurses on their first placement will be placed with the HCAs for a few weeks, to really develop these care skills before they begin learning the other skills essential to being a nurse. Please do not think that you are missing out on learning opportunities through being with the HCAs, you are learning so much about patient care and the HCAs really are the backbone of any ward. They know their patients inside out and provide important information to the nurses about the patients mental and physical state. A nurse should not feel that it is ‘beneath them’ to be doing tasks that the HCAs would usually be completing.
On a positive note, I really do see the term ‘too posh to wash’ a lot less than I have done in the past and really hope our new generation of student nurses can really help to abolish this term and train of thought.