I have a huge passion for nurses, nursing and the nursing voice …. Yep, 100% … and I would never deny that as a long time nurse who believes that nurses can make a valuable impact on the people we care for nursing is something that I unashamedly and proactively advocate. However sometimes I forget that others may not feel as strongly about the contiribution that nurses can and do make everyday to so many people at times in their lives when they are vulnerable and in need of care and support…. and a recent situation really made me stop and think and question my approach to being such a fierce advocate for all things nursing:
A little while back I met someone who seemed to have oddly marginalised the entire nursing profession by reducing nurses to pill givers and I found myself quite at a loss as to what to do. I tried to understand why this person seemed to have a complete misunderstanding for what nurses do and their contribution to healthcare but found it incredibly difficult. I tried to articulate what nurses do and even dug out a few nursing models to help the person to visualise and see the depth and breadth of nursing but this individual seemed to have a very fixed mindset. It worried me that this person not only seemed to have no respect for nurses but also a distrust of nurses …. it shocked me! It’s a fact that nurses are the most trusted profession … 93% of the public rate us as being trustworthy, so to come across one of the 7% who don’t was unsettling for this nurse.
I came away from meeting this person feeling that being an advocate for nurses and nursing was a bad thing and it really made me question my values. Am I right to advocate nurses and nursing so strongly ?
One of the most fabulous things about being a nurse is that you are part of a profession that at its very core encourages reflection and learning throughout your career … and this is what I fell back on; I spent some time reflecting on the encounter and tried to make some sense of it and learn from it. We are forever telling our students that we can learn from the bad situations just as much as we can can learn from the good, and I feel that this had the potential to be the case with this set of circumstances.
My thoughts turned from being shocked (and quite offended if I am honest) to curious …. Yes we are the most trusted profession but do people know and understand what we do? Do we articulate this enough? What would you say when confronted with someone who thinks nurses merely give out pills ? My realisation was that I was not ready for this conversation and that perhaps in the future because of this encounter I am … and that’s a good thing !
I also reflected on how important it is to remember that to each conversation every person brings their own perspective, their own bias and preconceptions and that sometimes this can take a very long time to change. The encounter I had shook me as it made me question my fierce advocacy for nursing, however through reflection I have realised that I feel that I am right to champion and believe in nurses and nursing but perhaps I would not have felt quite so discombobulated (there are some situations where discombobulated is the only word to use!) had I stopped to understand the other person’s perspective, their circumstances, their preconceptions and bias and perhaps them why they felt that way.
Ultimately the experience did make me stop and think but it also made me more determined than ever to ensure that nurses have a voice and know how to use it, as nurses are, and always have been, vital to evidence based compassionate care.