Nurse Director Alex McMahon shares his thoughts on What Matters to You Day

‘What matters to you?’ is a really important question to ask, because it’s sometimes worth stepping back and thinking about the jobs we do and whether what we’re doing is what the patient wants – indeed that’s why there is a whole day dedicated to getting staff, patients and relatives to think about it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any clinical nursing, but I haven’t forgotten that while nursing is about delivering technical care, it’s also about providing good quality, safe and compassionate care, and I think it’s important for us all to reflect on that. Do we take time, do we seek feedback, do we sit down with patients and actually have a discussion about things with them – not in a rushed way, but in a meaningful way?

I was speaking at a recent student nurse event and one of the things I was saying to them was that, now they are qualified and they’re going to be on the wards delivering direct care, it’s really important that they understand what matters to the individual patient. Although it’s very busy and they’ll sometimes be rushed, they need to remember that patients are dependent on them – they’re vulnerable, and they need nurses to consider their needs.

Perhaps because we’re so busy, and patients observe this, they think they’re taking up more time by asking questions, so they tend not to want to interrupt. I think, though, that the art of nursing is providing direct care to patients, but also having a dialogue (conversation) at the same time – asking questions and using the time you’ve got with them meaningfully. That all comes back to the whole ethos of ‘What Matters to You’ day – we should encourage each other to remember that whenever we are interacting with a patient, we should always be having a conversation with them. We should hope to understand: are you okay, is there anything you’re anxious about, do you think you’re getting good enough care, do you understand what’s going on? 

What matters to me personally is having value attached to what we do, that we deliver care with care and compassion and to the best of our ability. This sits well with the NHS Lothian Values – about valuing the individual, valuing teams, valuing culture, and valuing honesty and openness. If we reflect these ideals, both at a team and an individual level, we can deliver the care that people hope for. It’s vital to treat people as you would want to be treated yourself – I think we would all want to be treated with dignity, respect, kindness and compassion, so we must always remember that.

Join in the conversation on Twitter using the #WMTY17 hashtag, and find out more about the day and how to join in at

Professor Alex McMahon
Executive Director, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Healthcare Professionals
Executive Lead, REAS and Prison Healthcare
NHS Lothian