Too posh to wash?

Never, says student Toni Wade, reflecting on the value of hands-on, personal care

I have often heard the expression “too posh to wash” relating to registered nurses but I have also heard it mentioned when referring to nursing students. 

I have been in the presence of many students who see the benefits of providing personal care to patients but unfortunately I’ve also heard the same comment that “they are not there to provide personal care as it is not a nurse’s job.” 

These have been very rare occasions and the belief was challenged immediately.

Easy but vital

Providing personal care to patients is one of the first skills we are taught as students. Whether it is assisting with washing someone or performing simple mouth care, we can find out so much about a patient. 

We can use it as an opportunity to check their skin integrity and document any changes to pressure areas. It can also 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. A patient may even use this time to express any worries or concerns they may have.

Fundamental values

I believe that assisting with the needs of patients, such as personal care, is one of the fundamental roles of nursing. Maybe this belief comes from my experience as a care assistant and knowing how much performing these tasks means to an individual, but it’s a skill that should be honed as a student. This is why students on their first placement will often be placed with health care assistants (HCAs) for a few weeks – so they can really develop these essential care skills before they begin learning the other skills integral to being a nurse. 

HCAs are the backbone of any ward and we can learn so much from them. They tend to know patients inside out and can provide important information to the nurses about a patient’s mental and physical state. A nurse should never feel it is “beneath them” to be doing tasks that the HCAs would usually be completing.

On a positive note, I really do hear the term “too posh to wash” a lot less than I have done in the past and really hope our generation of students can help abolish this term and train of thought for good.

Toni Wade

Toni Wade

In principle and in practice

The RCN, in partnership with the Department of Health and the NMC, has developed eight principles of nursing practice that apply to all nursing staff and nursing students in any care setting. 

The principles describe what constitutes safe and effective nursing care, and cover the aspects of behaviour, attitude and approach that underpin good care.

Principle A says:

Nurses and nursing staff treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity – they understand their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way that respects all people equally.

Read all the principles

Main picture: stock image from RCN photo library

Read next...