Sunday, 26 September 2010

An old fashioned concept for a new start, and the Magic of Oxford

The past few weeks have been very busy ones. However, last week’s busy-ness was not down to having to travel so much as having to deal with some big issues and to do so in a tight time frame. Tuesday morning, in a meeting faintly reminiscent of Brief Encounters (in that a somewhat illicit meeting was held in the Coffee shop opposite M&S on the Mezzanine floor of Piccadilly Station) the Deans and Heads of School (Health Care) from across the North West gathered to go through the options available to make the required savings shortfall from the agreed 15% cuts in the Non Medical Education Training budget. The sum required was nearly £5 million over three years, so coming up with options was a challenge.

The subsequent meeting with colleagues from the SHA was a good one, and by lunch time an agreement in principle had been reached. Whilst the cut and thrust of the negotiations debate was interesting, it was also a little wearying. On returning to the University, I had time to meet with all the new students who this week, had started journey of becoming nurse or a midwife, before returning to the station and traveling down to Oxford.

This was the second session I had with the students this week, and both were the highlights of my week. It is a great privilege to meet all these new students and have the opportunity to talk about the relationship we (that is my colleagues and I in the School) want to develop with each student over the next three years. It is also an opportunity to describe what I think is involved in becoming an effective nurse or midwife, and where I think the nursing and midwifery professions are headed in the brave new world we find ourselves in.

One of the thoughts I wanted the new students to take away and reflect upon comes from an old but, in my view important idea. This idea is concerned with ensuring as we become nurses or midwives we find ways to nurture what Carl Rogers described as an unconditional positive regard for others. This is an approach based upon the acceptance of a person whatever that person says or does. It is accepting that people might behave in a particular way, and often for reasons not known to us. To be judgmental in such situations is likely to result in poor relationships and ineffective care and recovery. My belief is that developing such unconditional positive regard for others first requires us to understand something more about our self. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience – but an important one.

Although Carl Rogers is the person most associated with the concept, in his book On Becoming a Person he acknowledges that it was his fellow PhD student, Stanley Standal who first developed the term. Stanley was a complex person but someone who was said to have excited and challenged all those he came into contact with. His and Carl Rogers development of the concept of unconditional positive regard became a popular framework for understanding of the interpersonal relationships dynamics involved in therapeutic relationships. For me it is a concept and an approach that allows for nurses and midwives to understand the interrelationship between the being and doing of nursing.

Stanley was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the mid 1990's. He moved to the Philippines with his wife Ophelia where lived out his last days. For our students, these are the first days of their new life and journey on becoming a nurse and or a midwife. I wish them all the very best. Many thanks to all those new students who have taken the time to say they enjoyed the two sessions I was privileged to share with them at the beginning of the week. Please remember that I always welcome comments and feedback from all students, it is an important way for my colleagues and I to ensure we constantly find ways of making your experience the best it can be.

And Oxford, well it was my last conference of this academic year and the last opportunity for me to present my work to others. The conference participants were mental health nurses from all over the world and in the surprising sunshine of late September, it was lovely to enjoy the discussion, debate, and exchange of ideas. The venue for the conference, Wadham College, had a magical feel to it, part Morse and part Hogwarts, it was lovely.