As a registered nurse, it is likely that you will have given some thought to the meaning and role of dignity in your practice. Dignity is identified as a key value in the first statement in the Nursing and Midwifery Code (2008):
The people in your care must be able to trust you with their health and well-being. To justify that trust you must: make the care of people your first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity.
As a registered nurse working in a care home you have an opportunity to provide ethical leadership so that care givers, who are members of your team, understand the meaning of dignity in their everyday practice. The purpose of the Toolkit is to help you to lead care givers so you work together well to provide the most dignifying experiences possible for residents, family members, colleagues and yourselves.
This Toolkit contains resources that will help you to provide leadership on dignity in care. It is understood that you have many demands on your time and will need materials in ‘bite-size chunks’ so that you can focus on different aspects of dignity in different ways and at different times. These take the form of a range of activities you can use with your team, with a time commitment ranging from 5 to 60 minutes.
Section 1 – Understanding dignity – this section suggests some ideas to assist you to help members of your team to reflect on the meaning of dignity and how it relates to everyday practice in the care home.
Section 2 – Dignity Principles – this suggests how you can introduce colleagues to dignity statements and to encourage them to use the pocket guide to reflect on their practice.
Section 3 – Communicating dignity – this includes tips to help your team demonstrate dignity in their everyday communication with residents, families and others.
Section 4 – Dignity group conversations – a structured format is suggested to help you lead discussions relating to care situations that are ethically challenging.
Section 5 – Ethical leadership & empowerment – this final section gives you the opportunity to reflect on what is meant by ethical leadership and the ways you identify and can build on your leadership skills.
We hope that you will enjoy working through the exercises and applying the material we have included to your experiences.
Royal College of Nursing Definition of Dignity
Here is a definition of dignity that comes from a report by the Royal College of Nursing:
‘Dignity is concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves and others. To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals. In care situations, dignity may be promoted or diminished by: the physical environment; organisational culture; by the attitudes and behaviour of the [care] team and others and by the way care activities are carried out.
When dignity is present, people feel in control, valued, confident, comfortable and able to make decisions for themselves. When dignity is absent people feel devalued, lacking control and comfort. They may lack confidence and be unable to make decisions for themselves. They may feel humiliated, embarrassed or ashamed.
Dignity applies equally to those who have capacity and to those who lack it. Everyone has equal worth as human beings and must be treated as if they are able to feel, think and behave in relation to their own worth and value. The [care] team should, therefore, treat all people in all settings and of any health status with dignity, and dignified care should continue after death.’
Skills for Care’ suggest the following definition and 7 principles of dignity:
‘Dignity focuses on the significance and value of every person as a unique individual. We show our commitment to upholding other people’s dignity by the ways in which we treat them; fairly, truthfully and with care and compassion. We respect other’s views, choices and decisions and so not make assumptions about what they want, like or how they want to be treated.’
Principle 1: Value the uniqueness of every individual
Principle 2: Uphold the responsibility to shape care and support services around each individual
Principle 3: Value communicating with individuals in ways that are meaningful to them
Principle 4: Recognise and respect how an individual’s dignity may be affected when supported with their personal care
Principle 5: Recognise that an individual’s surroundings and environments are important to their sense of dignity
Principle 6: Value workplace cultures that actively promote the dignity of everybody
Principle 7: Recognise the need to challenge care that may reduce the dignity of the individual’