Nursing’s golden treasure

Occupational nurses can make the difference at all levels of the system and
deserve to be highly valued

Occupational health is the cutting edge of the nursing community, said Dr
Beverly Malone, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing in her
keynote address to the conference.

"I don’t see any other group in nursing having the conversation about
why nursing makes a difference – a difference in terms of safety and quality of
care.

"They should look at you as their golden treasure, and I’m not sure
they do.

"OH nurses always think in terms of systems," said Malone,
outlining the various levels of the system which OH nurses make a difference.

On the supra level, she said, which includes organisations such as the WHO,
the emphasis has been on determining which countries have the healthiest
workforce. "No other group of nurses have a more leading role in
determining that," she said.

On the organisational level, Malone spoke about her vision for the RCN.
"But a vision without action is a hallucination," she said.

"Under the umbrella of the RCN there should be room for every nurse to
have value and worth. My job is to make it clear that you are valued."

Making this happen, Malone continued, involves issues such as health and
safety – including mental health – pay and expert practice – "Every nurse
needs to be an expert," she said.

Somewhere along the line in their careers nurses can lose their passion for
nursing. "The key to keeping your passion is in your expert area,"
Malone said.

At group level, she recommended mentoring as a means of improving skills.
"Leaders are not born, they are mentored," she said. The final level
of the system is the individual level. "When we want change, the best
place to start is by changing ourselves."

Malone urged occupational health nurses to get involved in liaising with
primary care trusts. "Your knowledge base can be of critical
importance," she said.

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