National Roundtable Debate

Professor Veronica Swallow PhD MMedSci BSc (Hons) RGN RSCN

In January 2020, the UK and Ireland IFNA Chapter hosted a National Roundtable Debate at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, to discuss the question: Should nurses, midwives and health visitors use more family focused interventions to actively promote care of patients’ and clients’ families? Before the event, Professor Alison Metcalfe shared a blog to pave the way for the debate. The agenda for the event can be viewed here.

The debate was Chaired and facilitated by Julie Mercer of Carnegie Associates LLP. The panel comprised:

The audience comprised of 24 people, including IFNA UK and Ireland Chapter members, nursing students, nursing lecturers and practitioners. The panel and audience represented different fields of nursing as well as midwifery and health visiting. The full press release for the debate can be viewed here.

To set the scene for the debate, Professor Marcia Van Riper, from the School of Nursing, University of North Carolina in the USA, and a founder member of the International Family Nursing Association (IFNA), delivered a very thought provoking and informative keynote presentation entitled “What is Family Nursing?” which detailed how family-led nursing has evolved as a practice across the world. Following Professor Van Riper’s presentation, there was a stimulating discussion by the Panel.

The objective of the discussion was to build a better understanding of what the current position is in the UK and Ireland regarding a broader understanding of the concept of the family-nursing, family-midwifery and family-health visiting role, taking stock of the most recent developments in nurse education and practice in relation to family-focused care and the professions’ intentions to recognise and promote family nursing, as indicated in their strategy/s and plans to achieve them.

It also provided an opportunity to discuss the role of the UK and Ireland IFNA Chapter in working with the national leaders in Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting to galvanise existing family nursing strengths in the UK and Ireland; to deliver and leverage family nursing policy and practice in order to benefit families in the UK and Ireland who are the recipients of nursing, midwifery and health visiting care and support. After the panel discussion, the Chair opened the debate to the audience for questions and comments.

The panel discussions focused around the following questions:

  • Is it important to spend a lot more time listening to the family?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of an interdisciplinary family systems-led approach?
  • Who is the family and why it is so important to ‘think family’ in our encounters with patients and clients?
  • Should attention be paid to relationships between the family and healthcare provider/s?
  • Do family members as care givers make the healthcare situation more complicated?

Within the broader discussion involving the panel and the audience, the following queries and concerns were explored and discussed from the different perspectives of families and nursing, midwifery and health visiting:

  • Do fields of nursing help or do we need more generic education with specialisms to meet the complexity of healthcare?
  • Do we really deliver family-focused care, how is it defined and enacted?
  • What about people with no family?
  • Families can be problematic, what preconceptions do people bring?
  • Are we a person before a patient?
  • Family therapy clinics means people could have been helped earlier
  • There are differences in attitudes towards families in different cultures
  • We need to recognise inequalities in healthcare
  • We need family-nursing champions and role models
  • Guidance needs to be short and to the point
  • Hospital vs community and family dynamics
  • Isolated patents are not always visible
  • Professional socialisation
  • Plan to increase number of UK nurses by 2024 – we need to ‘sell it’ as a career
  • We need to demonstrate why theory is important in delivering nursing, midwifery and health visiting curricula
  • The evidence-base is needed to demonstrate the action needed… the call to action
  • Placement capacity is a barrier.

Participants concluded that the partnership between the UK and Ireland IFNA Chapter and nursing, midwifery and health visitor leaders could actively support and promote future efforts to explore the more active role that nurses, midwives and health visitors can take in considering and caring for families in order to improve family members’ health and wellbeing outcomes. It was agreed that this roundtable discussion increases the wider national debate around nursing provision for patients, clients and their families and why it is so important to ‘think family’.

The debate later received some positive press coverage, including Nursing Times, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, the Sheffield Star, Sheffield Telegraph, and Big Stamp.

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