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St Thomas' nurse is ‘dignity champion’ for older people

The number of 'dignity champions' across the country has risen to more than 3,000. A nurse at St Thomas' describes what the role means to her.

St Thomas' nurse is ‘dignity champion’ for older people

Dignity champions, who include frontline staff, MPs and, most famously, Michael Parkinson, are volunteers who commit to make a difference to the way older people are cared for.

The TV presenter visited St Thomas' Hospital in May to launch the dignity champions scheme.

"People want, and have a right to expect, services with dignity and respect at their heart, so I am delighted that we now have over 3,000 dignity champions dedicated to ensuring that dignity and respect are central to the care people receive," says care minister Phil Hope MP.

Tina Waters is a matron in acute medicine on an elderly care ward at St Thomas' Hospital and has become one of more than 100 dignity champions across the Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

"Dignity in Care is a great opportunity to refocus on where we are going," says Tina Waters.

"It gives nurses the chance to revisit some of the things we take for granted and ask if we are getting it right – or if there are things we can do differently."

Tina decided to train as a nurse 13 years ago because she enjoys meeting new people and had a passion for caring for older people.

"As a nurse you are in a privileged position. You see people during some of the most vulnerable times of their lives and your role is to help them. It's something people remember you for.

"If you mention dignity, people often think about single sex wards but it encompasses everything.

"Nursing skills are very diverse – a theatre nurse has a totally different job to that of a ward nurse or someone in A&E, but we all need to be able to treat patients with care and respect. It's meaningful for everyone.

"A change in culture is taking place in the hospital because of the push on dignity, as people reflect on what they do.

"On a day-to-day basis, I make sure I talk to patients and their relatives and talk through any issues. My role also allows me to coach and advise more junior staff about how dignity can be encompassed into all nursing, whether it be helping a patient with their medication to assisting someone with their hygiene needs.

"In health care, everyone is working under quite stressful conditions and we need strong relationships to work well together. Whether you are nurse, doctor, receptionist or surgeon, we need to improve the way we work with each other to get the best for the patients. Putting dignity at the heart of all care has been a good reminder that we need to treat everyone with respect – our colleagues, patients and their relatives."

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