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The Six C’s of Care

In 2012, all professionals within the care industries (including nursing, midwifery and caring) were given a new policy to follow and adhere to in their professional practice. That policy was referred to as the ‘Six C’s’. But what are the six C’s? What do they stand for and what are they for? Here’s everything you need to know about the six C’s of care:

What Are the Six C’s of Care?

The six C’s of care are the core values that all individuals employed in caring industries are expected to incorporate in the way that they care for their patients. They were first introduced by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings in December 2012 and were initially intended to be applied to nurses, midwives, and staff within care homes.

The six C’s of care are care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence and they are referred to as the six C’s because each value begins with the letter C. The six C’s are either behaviours or beliefs and each noun is a vital quality that individuals should possess in order to be successful in any of the ‘caring professions.’

What Are the Six C’s of Care For?

The main purpose of the six C’s is to ensure that all individuals, whether injured, elderly or infirm, are looked after with care and compassion. They are intended to guide the actions of caring professionals and ensure that they deliver the highest possible standard of care to their patients every day. Each of the values included within the six C’s is considered essential for those working within the caring professions and these values are considered so integral that in 2014 they were rolled out to all members of NHS staff under the banner of ‘compassion in practice’.

Here is a breakdown of each of these core values and how they can be applied in real terms:

Care

Nursing, midwifery and elder care are not referred to as the ‘caring professions’ for nothing: When working in these areas, care should sit at the heart of everything you do. It is not simply enough to say that you care: you should demonstrate care in your actions. As a nurse, midwife, carer, or anyone else in the business of caring, caring literally defines the work you do. No matter what stage of their life your patients are at, you should care for them and for their family members and caregivers too. Care is a wider term that means that, as well as caring for those under your immediate care, you should also use your skills to improve the health of your wider community. The ways in which you can demonstrate this care include:

  • Prevention. Working with those in your community to prevent them from demonstrating certain conditions (Type 2 Diabetes is a good example of this).
  • Early Intervention. The earlier many conditions are identified, the easier they are to treat, and you will be better able to focus on the comfort and care of your patients.
  • Health Promotion. Raising awareness of certain conditions without your community will help your patient to be aware of the wider symptoms, and therefore seek treatment or diagnosis at an early stage.
  • Treatment. Finally, the part of care that we focus on the most is the treatment of ill health. This involves working across a broad spectrum of health and care specialists, and with a multidisciplinary team, to treat people in as caring and unintrusive a way as possible. This will look different ways for different patients; it may involve helping patients to stay active, supporting them to remain in their own home with additional care, or ensuring that they have the things that make them feel safe and comfortable around them if they are in in-patient care. Those working in the caring professions look after some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and the way in which they do this changes constantly. The UK has an increasingly ageing population, with more than a sixth of the population (11.1 million people) aged 65 years and over in 2021. That’s an increase from 9.2 million in 2011. Providing care for this population will only prove more challenging, which is why it’s important that the six C’s of care guide the caring profession.
compassionate care

Compassion

Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together’ but in real terms, its definition is much wider. Treating someone with compassion means that when you are confronted with the suffering of someone else, whether you know them or not, you feel motivated to act to relieve their suffering. Highly compassionate people are motivated to relieve the suffering of others, are emotionally moved by the suffering of others, and raise awareness of the suffering of others in order to better support them on a higher level. Compassion is often referred to as intelligent kindness. Compassionate individuals are empathetic, understanding, and patient.

As a patient or client who is treated or supported by an individual working within the caring professions, it makes a huge difference to your level of care if the individual supporting you demonstrates compassion. People want to be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness. Demonstrating compassion is the best way to ensure that they are. Finally, treating people with compassion means demonstrating compassion to the families of the people you are caring for, as well as compassion to your patients themselves; they should be included in the decision-making process and their feelings and views should be considered, particularly if they are actively involved in providing care.

If you’re working within the care industry, then some practical ways in which you can demonstrate compassion include:

  • Actively listening to those you are caring for and taking their views and opinions into consideration when creating a plan for their care.
  • Listening to the feedback provided by your patients and learning from the feedback that they provide to you.
  • Working well with other teams in a collaborative way that has the needs of the patient at the heart.
  • Letting human connection drive your decision-making process and treatment plans and being mindful of any behaviours that may interfere with this.
  • Taking a best practice approach to sharing information and data with other stakeholders so that the patient’s wellbeing is the primary focus.

Competence

It should go without saying that if you choose to work in the caring professions then you should be competent within your chosen profession. It isn’t enough to simply care about your patients’ or clients’ needs, you also need to demonstrate the expertise and technical knowledge that will enable you to best support their health and social needs. Caring professionals should have a high-end knowledge of all available treatments that might suit their patients’ needs and should help them to make the right choices based on research and evidence. If this is outside of their immediate area of expertise, then they should be able to work within a multidisciplinary team to ensure that each patient is treated with competence and care.

For this reason, ensuring that those employed within the caring professions are competent and have the high-level qualifications they need to perform their role is essential. The six C’s are now regularly used within NHS recruitment, from senior management to frontline workers, to determine the values people are bringing to the role. Continued Professional Development (CPD) is an integral part of working within the caring professions and this falls under the competency umbrella of the six C’s. Undertaking regular training and maintaining your CPD are essential elements of optimising the quality of the care you provide. The professional competencies that you demonstrate are likely to evolve throughout your career, and these should be subject to regular evaluation.

Communication

It is not unusual for high-level communication skills to be considered vital in most lines of work, but they are particularly important if you work in the caring professions. Effective communication skills are essential on two levels: to enable you to communicate with your patient or client, and to enable you to communicate with other healthcare professionals. There are many different types of communication skills that you will need to possess to work on the front line of the caring profession. These include:

  • Verbal communication skills. You will need these to accurately pass messages on to co-workers, managers and other agencies, and to communicate the details of their condition or care plan clearly with your clients or patients. Individuals under medical care tend to feel better at ease when they clearly understand what is happening to them and what the next steps of their treatment plan are, so high-level verbal communication skills are essential to the well-being of your patients.
  • Listening skills. Active listening skills will enable you to fully understand what you are being told by the individuals you are caring for. Their thoughts and feelings, as well as any new symptoms or pains, will be integral to their care. Active listening skills will also enable you to share and receive information from other colleagues that may be involved in the sharing or treatment process.
  • Written communication skills. In order to ensure that a care plan is clear and consistent, it should be recorded, which is why detailed record keeping is such an integral part of nursing work. Assessing, reporting, recording, and ensuring that those records remain confidential are all key elements of the caring professions and they all require a good level of written communication.
  • Non-verbal communication skills. Finally, a more subtle element of being a good communicator means understanding what your patients are not telling you, even if this differs from what they are telling you. Their body language and facial expressions will often reveal whether they are in pain, experiencing negative emotions, or otherwise in need of additional support.

Courage

It takes courage to work in the care sector: the ability to see people suffering every day but still turn up to help and support them shouldn’t be underestimated. When you work in a caring profession, you will have to make difficult decisions every day and support people through difficult, and often life-threatening situations. Individuals in the care sector are responsible for the care that they provide and the judgement calls that they make based on their professional expertise can have a life-changing impact on others. For this reason, caring for others demands courage.

Another reason that courage is one of the six C’s is to empower those within the care sector to have the courage to ‘whistle blow’ when something is wrong. Sadly, whilst the vast majority of care professionals focus on caring for their patients, a minority will demonstrate ill-treatment, abuse or bad practice to those under their care. It is not enough to simply not demonstrate ill-treatment, abuse or bad practice yourself: if you witness these behaviours or suspect they are happening then you should have the courage to raise your concerns to your superiors, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. In order for the NHS to keep moving forward, evolving as care needs to evolve, those working within it need to voice their concerns when they arise. This is why concern is considered to be such a key value within the caring professions.

Commitment

The very last of the six C’s is commitment. The caring professions should never be roles that you work in simply because you need a job; you should be committed to your patients and the health of the wider population, and committed to caring for and helping others. The caring professions are vocations because you feel dedicated to improving the care and experience of your patients.

In addition to being committed to fulfilling your role, the commitment element of the six C’s also refers to a commitment to developing your own skills and knowledge; to continued professional development (CPD) and in turn, sharing your knowledge with others in your industry. Finally, the commitment element of the six C’s simply refers to being committed to adhering to the six C’s and putting them into practice when caring for your patients and clients. You should be committed to providing high-quality care to everyone you come into contact with, and to dedicating your professional career to high-quality care.

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