I know it may seem cliché, but I am unapologetically so. My favourite thing about being a nurse is 100%, without a doubt, the patients. It is a privilege to be a nurse, to be there for someone when they are at their most vulnerable. I love getting to know people, to find out their stories. When I am able to comfort them or allay their worries, I feel as though I have done a good job. This is why I think excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential.
We need to use these skills to develop and maintain strong therapeutic relationships built on mutual respect and trust. I genuinely enjoy doing this. Maybe it’s because I’m a chatterbox who loves a good chinwag. Maybe it’s because I was an actor for years and in companies we had to build trusting relationships quickly. Or maybe it’s because I find it fascinating to learn more about their lives, their hopes, their romantic pasts (those stories are always my favourite – I blame Disney). Whatever the reason, getting to know the patients I am looking after is my favourite part of the day.
Truly knowing our patients facilitates optimal care delivery. Because how can we properly identify deterioration if we don’t really know them? Yes, observations and algorithms may give us a medical indication, but what if they don’t? On paper things may appear fine, and if we don’t know them then we may just accept this. However, if we genuinely know “Anne”, then we know that something isn’t right. She isn’t just tired; she may be depressed, she may have hypoactive delirium. If we don’t know her and this goes unnoticed we are failing her. We are ineffective nurses who are compromising patient safety and outcomes.
It is for this very reason I am so troubled by the nursing staffing crisis in the NHS, and the failure to recruit and retain nurses. The real losers in this situation are our patients – the reason I love nursing. Nurses are so stretched that often they simply cannot spend the time they would like to getting to know their patients. And things get missed – I’ve seen it happen, as I’m sure most of you have.
As a student nurse, we are supposed to be supernumerary. However, this status often goes when wards are short staffed and we become an extra pair of hands. But, when we do get to retain it, I love the opportunity it gives me to get to know patients better. I don’t want to lose this ability when I become a staff nurse.
People have mentioned to me that they can see me progress into management or education roles in the future, which of course is extremely flattering, and a confidence boost. They certainly have more faith in me than I do. However, I worry that this would take me away from direct contact with patients. They are the reason I got into nursing and why I enjoy it so much. For this reason, I would much rather become a clinical nurse specialist or advanced nurse practitioner in time so that I still provide face-to-face patient care on a daily basis.
After all, without patients, there would be no need for nurses.