COVID-19: Keeping the face of nursing

 Dame Donna Kinnair 16 Apr 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair shares her experience of volunteering at the Nightingale Hospital.

‘Smizing’ is a brilliant term. It means to smile with your eyes. This is just one of the ways nursing staff are learning to overcome the barrier that a near-complete face covering puts between you and a patient.

Each side appreciates the clinical necessity, but it makes compassionate care even harder to give. The reassuring face you work hard to show is now shielded for your sake and theirs.

Some nursing and other staff are clipping print outs of their face and first name to the front of gowns; their heartfelt determination to maintain their humanity, in addition to the highest standards of safety.

I was exposed to the problem yesterday when I did my shift at the Nightingale in London. I had a go at ‘smizing’ but was thankfully reassured by seeing people in PPE. I know too many of you are having a different experience. And I know the stocks are low.

We shouldn’t have to be grateful that this critical equipment is there. It is a necessity to do our job.

Last weekend, nearly 14,000 of you took the time to tell me about PPE where you work – good and bad – through the survey we ran. We’re crunching the numbers now and what’s emerging is far from comforting. When I’ve got the full picture, we’ll email it to you, our members, first.

But there’s no use in me telling you what you already know. It’s what I’m going to do with it on your behalf, that you need to hear. You’ve armed me with powerful evidence, and I am putting it under the nose of every decision maker in the country.

Something else we must never hear repeated is that staff on the frontline should use PPE stock more sparingly. Nurses are professionals who exercise their judgement day-in and day-out. They know what they need to stay safe.

I am heartened by the serious growing public acknowledgement of the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community. I have been asked to contribute to the government’s review on this.

Sadly, the loss of life has continued this week. While there are encouraging signs that the outbreak is reaching a plateau in the community, the toll it is taking on the health worker community is still becoming clear. Whether they are members of the RCN not, they’re our colleagues and our friends and we’re immensely proud of them.

Neglecting social care only piles pressure on the system. It should not have taken a pandemic to realise that. Social care staff are treating chronically sick patients with COVID-19 and they must have proper PPE.

Nursing staff who work in social care and their patients have not been forgotten. I had to agree with a senior voice from the care sector on the TV this morning when she said, ‘social care won’t go back to being a Cinderella service after this’.

We won’t let it.

Remember that wherever there are people living, working and dying, there are nursing staff.

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 16/04/2020