Dignity in older years


Promoting dignity is an important element of patient care with aims of improving emotional well-being, reducing unnecessary dependence and where restoring the patients/clients self-esteem remains vital. 

A person’s dignity may be however be challenged through personal or organisational constraints, but the continued endorsement for health professionals to embrace the notion of dignity encapsulates the substance around which professional standards are set and reach far beyond routine interventions and procedures.   

Thus, continuing to pursue objectives of promoting dignity needs to remain a fundamental element within nurse and midwifery education and practice. Dignity includes the nurse or midwife recognising the social and psychological complexities that clinical, therapeutic and organisational practices and interventions might bring.   

By using a range of professional skills and values to guide their behaviour, health professionals are able to devise strategies to provide personalised socio-culturally competent care to enable and empower patients/clients to reach their goals.

There are many areas where dignity may become compromised, particularly with vulnerable adults.  Supportive education and supervised /guided practice are important learning opportunities for students to develop their practice in promoting dignity with vulnerable adults.

Key domains where dignity may be demonstrated include showing:

  • respect
  • participation
  • autonomy
  • empowerment
  • trust   

Some examples of where registered nurses and midwives can demonstrate this include acknowledging and respecting the patients/clients values and behaviours; seeking consent or following carefully informed best interest principles; individualising care; supporting decision-making and choice; courteous conduct; allowing for positive risk taking; and, by conserving the social standing of the person at all times despite the effects of ill-health or disability.   

The School of Nursing and Midwifery is committed to person centred approach within the curricula and supporting students in attaining these ideals through interplay of theoretical study, simulated practice and practice placement opportunities.   

It is here that students recognise the importance of dignity as not only a core personal and professional value, but also as a key behaviour/competence, evidenced through their day-to-day practice.

The Commission on Improving Dignity in Care is part of the NHS Confederation and can be accessed here http://www.nhsconfed.org/priorities/Quality/Partnership-on-dignity/Pages/Commission-on-dignity.aspx|

The report “Delivering dignity: Securing dignity in care for older people in hospitals and care homes. A report for consultation” was released in June 2012 and made ten recommendations for hospitals, and ten for care homes on pages 5-6.

Page 33 outlines the implications for universities with seeking attitudes towards the elderly at the interview stage, and has recommendations for teaching of nurses and other healthcare students. http://www.nhsconfed.org/Documents/dignity.pdf|

The nursing interviews at DMU pursue all the 6Cs and caring and compassionate attitudes are assessed at interview by both a nursing lecturer and a registered nurse from a local NHS Trust. In addition students are also made aware though the curriculum of the importance of the findings from the Francis Report (2013) and the Chief Nurse for England’s ’ 6 ‘Cs’ in the delivery of care to older people.

The faculty takes these recommendations seriously, and will encourage all staff to read the report and address the findings. The recommendations will be central to the teaching of our students, especially those involved in care of the older people.

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