Yesterday morning I was listening to Radio 4’s Today as Evan Davis interviewed Mary Monfries, head of tax policy at PwC, on whether it is tax advisers that are to blame for aggressive tax avoidance by companies like Starbucks. At the end of the interview, he asked Ms Monfries if she would look back on her life feeling she’d done good in the world because “You’re a bright person right, you’re a really intelligent person...”
Before Davis could ask "What are you doing working in this industry when you seem like such a nice girl?" she’d already cottoned on to what he really wanted to know which was whether she is proud of doing her job (she is). Whether she should be is debatable. But it was the word "bright" that caught my finely tuned feminist ear (and yes, I did just hear your snort of derision!).
Because I never hear men being complimented as "bright".
Ever heard a man say about another man "John in accounts should get a promotion. He’s very bright"? Or "That guy who co-founded Apple, you know, Steve Jobs. Bright as a shiny button he was!"? Boys and men are "clever". Girls and women are "bright". Perhaps it’s to balance the fact that girls and women never "sweat" but "glow"?
On this occasion, I think Davis can be forgiven for a little slip of the tongue because for a male Today presenter, he’s usually quite bright (Do you see what I did there?!). But whilst I appreciate that no suffragette ever chained herself to railings because she was fed up of men calling her "bright" (“Those Pankhurst girls are a bloody nightmare but terribly bright don’t you know! Not bright enough to vote, mind you....”) it strikes me that only children, highlighter pens, the aurora borealis, stars and light bulbs should ever be complimented for being "bright".
Patients are human, too!
On Tuesday the chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, launched a three-year strategy called Compassion in Practice. The intention is that nurses are taught how to provide compassionate care as well as which thermometer goes into which orifice.
But aren’t nurses being taught that already? Is there not already a module entitled "Hospital patients are human beings too!" and if not, why not? And why is it just nursing staff that are being taught to be caring? Whenever I have felt my needs have been dismissed or I’ve been treated like an annoyance, it’s been by consultants and GPs (not my current lovely crop, I hasten to add) rather than by nurses.
I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals throughout my life, and last year my baby spent 8 weeks being cared for by neonatal nurses. I can honestly say that I have never yet met a nurse who hasn’t treated me or my daughter without care and compassion.
I am lucky. I appreciate that not everyone is that fortunate and that many people have horror stories of neglectful hospital care or rude thoughtless nurses. We all know about the dreadful abuse that disabled people received at Winterbourne View care home.
But we only hear examples of bad nursing practice in the media because, understandably, "Shock as woman reveals nurse kindly held sick bucket and gently told her there was no need to feel embarrassed" is not front page news, though that was one of my experiences when I was in hospital for four weeks last year.
It’s undeniably good that the need for care and compassion is being recognised as an essential part of good nursing. But let’s not forget about those overworked and underpaid nurses whose innate qualities of empathy and compassion was what led them to want to be nurses in the first place.
If this Compassion in Practice strategy is found to be a success, may I suggest it’s rolled out to include politicians?