Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Experts and Old Dears

Here we go again - the expert professionals are finally discovering what is perfectly obvious to everyone else. You have to be very expert and very professional indeed not to realise that nursing is about caring for people as if they were, uh, people. This is obvious enough to the non-expert, non-professional cleaners who on some wards are the only people who do treat elderly patients as their fellow human beings. But not obvious, it seems, to the expert professionals, to whom it has come as a revelation. I suppose the upside of this is that it might mean that nursing finds its way back the values that used to prevail before it became a profession and a sub-academic discipline, rather than a vocation involving essentially practical expertise. Back to the future again?
I see that one of the report's recommendations is to bar the use of patronising language, such as 'old dear'. Enuff you sla me, as Molesworth would say. Once again they're missing the blindingly obvious - that the routine hospital practice of calling old people by their first names, uninvited, is the ultimate in patronising language, infantilising them and stripping them of their adult identity and dignity (and often adding to their confusion, as many people are not actually known by their first name). Simply changing to 'Mr' and 'Mrs' as the standard form of address would do more to change the ethos of hospital wards than any other single measure. And if it encouraged a wider return from first names to honorifics, that would be no bad thing.

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