Why Understanding the Lived Experience of Vulnerability is Fundamental to Exploring the Value Base of Care

Authors: Heaslip, V., Cooper, K. and Ryden, J.


Start date: 22 June 2014

Vulnerability is a key quality that all health carers will encounter in the people they work with. Indeed to be a nurse, midwife or carer working with such individuals is to have a privileged role within society, a role which demands that we exercise that privilege with responsibility, care and compassion. Yet there have been a plethora of concerns raised about poor standards of care within the NHS (Francis 2009, 2010) leading to a national focus on the value base of health care professionals. Nurse education must debate and challenge these issues with students in a manner which allows them to reflect upon, challenge and develop their own value base.

This oral paper will present a model of practice which has been used to educate adult student nurses, enabling them to not only review professional discourses and practices, but also to be moved to elegantly challenge such practices. A key aspect of this has been the involvement of individuals who would be deemed as “vulnerable” by health and social care practitioners. They share their “lived experience” of vulnerability, allowing students to enter their lived world and to ask questions, enabling them to view the world from the perspective of a service user or carer. In doing so, they have the opportunity to challenge the preconceptions and discourses that we as practitioners may have about traditionally labelled vulnerable groups. This approach is coupled with a theoretical exploration of issues such as power, stigma, labelling, oppression, compliance and conformity, together with use of case scenarios from practice. Student evaluation is overwhelmingly positive; identifying a clear relevance to their practice and empowerment or inspiration to make a difference. The approach clearly addresses the 6 C’s of compassionate care (Cummings and Bennett 2012).

Cummings, J., and Bennett, V., (2012). Compassion in Practice, Nursing, Midwifery and Care Staff. Our Vision in Practice. Leeds: Commissioning Board Chief Nursing Officer and DH Chief Nursing AdviserC Francis, R., (2013) Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. Stationary Office, London. Francis, R., (2010) Independent Inquiry into care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust January 2005 – March 2009. Stationary Office, London.

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