For many nursing staff, getting involved in creating standards to improve patient care may sound like a great idea - but there are just not enough hours in the day to take on extra responsibilities.
Others fear being asked for opinions on technical issues they know little about. “But making a contribution is much easier than you might think – and we need the voices of frontline nursing staff more than ever,” says the RCN’s Information and Resources Programme Manager, Dave O’Carroll. “For those who take part, there can be many more benefits than they ever envisaged.”
Now the RCN is highlighting the advantages of becoming involved in the work of the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB), with a new postcard explaining what it does and how nursing staff at all levels can take part in developing new standards.
Set up in 2013, the PRSB creates a variety of standards for health and social care records, ensuring the right information is recorded correctly and can be accessed easily. Areas covered include hospital referral letters, handovers and discharge summaries. The long-term goal is to share information just once, with records then available in every care setting - including people’s homes - improving patient safety and quality of care.
A powerful contribution
“Nursing and midwifery staff can be involved in the PRSB’s work in all kinds of ways,” says Annette Gilmore, a member of the RCN’s eHealth Forum steering committee and a clinical lead and adviser at the PRSB.
“As we begin to draft a standard, you can volunteer to complete a survey and be interviewed about your views and ideas. It’s not a big commitment, but it’s very powerful in the end product.”
Other options include taking part in workshops, expert groups or project boards, some held virtually. “It can count towards your revalidation and we pay expenses too,” says Annette. “It’s great learning and mutually beneficial - you get as much out of it, or more, than you put in.”
The contribution of nursing staff is crucial, Dave believes. “We are the largest group of those who use and share information,” he says.
It’s vital that we play a key role in making sure standards work in the real world - and not just on paper
Nursing staff are also at risk from poor information sharing, he adds, with statistics showing that this is responsible for half of medication errors and a fifth of serious reactions to drugs.
RCN member Liz Barfield took part in a workshop on clinical referrals. “For me, nurses always bring a slightly different dynamic to these conversations,” says Liz. “We tend to consider the patient in a more holistic way - we’re looking at the whole person and not just a set of symptoms.”