5 words that describe a nurse…

There are a plethora of words that could be chosen to describe a nurse. In this current climate, undervalued, exhausted, overstretched and underpaid are a few that come to mind.

Nurses have faced years of hardship and have been beaten down during a period when services have been stretched to breaking point. First, there was the pay freeze, then the pitiful extended 1% pay cap. Workloads have increased, often to unsafe levels, and many nurses have left the profession, burnt out, disenchanted, and genuinely fearful for patient safety. Also, there’s been a decrease in student nursing applicants, threatening the very future of nursing. The removal of the NHS nursing bursary being the direct cause in certain parts of the UK.

This all adds up to a disaster: for our profession, for the NHS, and for the public – we all deserve better. Nurses deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just as patients are too. Nurses deserve to be paid appropriately for the work they do. And student nurses deserve bespoke nursing funding to support them throughout their studies for what is not a conventional degree programme.

Nursing requires the essential values of compassion and empathy, amongst many others, but it is also so much more than that. It’s a degree-educated, graduate-entry profession, requiring constant critical thinking and the use of the best evidence-based practice to protect patient safety and deliver the best outcomes. Nurses are often the coordinators of care, and they’re also researchers, educators, pioneers.

However, the purpose of this 30-day blog challenge is to transform the perceptions of nursing. So, I would rather focus on the positives of nursing. I love our profession and being a student nurse, and despite all the negativity surrounding it, I cannot wait to be a nurse.

I think the 6Cs of nursing describe nursing well – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage, and commitment. However, perhaps they are a little basic. So, what can I add to these in my “5 words that describe a nurse“?

I have purposefully not chosen the word resilient. Though, I agree nurses are resilient and have to be so – for both themselves and patients. ‘Resilience’ is often used as a buzzword. I do not believe nurses or nursing students are offered enough mental health or emotional support in what is a very demanding, all-consuming profession. Nurses are expected to be able to deal with anything that is thrown at them. If they are struggling, they have to be more resilient. Do they? Is that the answer? Would it not be better and more healthy to have reflective conversations with peers or senior members of the team that could identify ways to help them cope; rather than tell them to toughen up? Resilience is, of course, important, and nurses could not be freely weeping on the wards all day. But they should be supported in this resilience, and I don’t believe resilience is a badge to be worn with pride and honour. It’s a bit ‘stiff upper lip’ for me. With regards emotional and mental health support, I am aware this is different for mental health nurses – so I speak for adult nursing, which is what I know.

In my choice of 5 words that describe a nurse, I have also not included the words kind, caring, empathetic and compassionate. Not because I do not consider these to be necessary skills or words that describe the nurse, quite the opposite. However, these words I feel are a given. All nurses should possess them. The purpose of my chosen words is to help transform public opinion of the nurse – to educate them on our role further. So, here they are.

ADVOCATE:

There is a reason nurses come out on top time and time again in polls regarding the most trusted professions. I believe advocacy is a significant reason behind this. As is laid out in the Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Code (2015), nurses must advocate on behalf of their patients. When patients and their families are at their most vulnerable, they need someone to be championing their cause and making sure they fully understand everything that is going on with regards their diagnosis, treatment and continued care. When they do not, or if they do not have the capacity, then the nurse must act in their best interests at all times.

For nurses, advocacy goes beyond this. Or at least I believe it should. They should be advocating for their peers, for student nurses and championing the profession as a whole. Some nurses have often felt as though their voice cannot make a difference. But it can. I would always encourage nurses to make their voices heard. If they feel they can’t, then it is up to other nurses to advocate on their behalf. If we don’t make a noise and raise our concerns, then we can’t complain about our poor treatment.

COORDINATOR:

Nurses are more often than not the coordinators of care for patients. They liaise with other members of the multidisciplinary healthcare team and social care services to make sure that care runs as seamlessly as possible.

Nurses are the backbone of hospitals and care in the community; without them healthcare as we know it would cease to function, which is why the profession deserves to be respected and valued.

ADAPTABLE:

No two days are ever the same. This constant change is part of the reason I find nursing so exciting. But it is for that reason nurses must be adaptable. They have to be able to react in the moment and adapt.

Being adaptable helps protect patient safety and achieves optimal clinical outcomes. The need for constant adaptability is why I am against the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality and the rose-tinted nostalgia of nursing history. We can adapt because we are critical thinkers who rely on the best most up-to-date evidence to guide our practice. Another reason why it’s so essential that nursing remains a degree educated profession, fostering this level of academic thought.

NON-JUDGEMENTAL:

Nurses should treat all people equally, free from judgement, regardless of any personal views. I believe this to be such an integral quality of a nurse. In practice, when I have seen nurses and other members of the healthcare team exercise judgement, I have found it galling. There is no place for it in healthcare – or in the society, in my opinion.

REFLECTIVE:

Through reflective practice, we improve not only our practice, but we improve healthcare as a whole and the patient’s experience of their care. Of course, we will make mistakes – it is inevitable, we are human. However, it is how we reflect upon these instances and develop from them that speaks more about us as nurses and as a profession.

I look forward to your thoughts and to reading your words describing a nurse.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85

What are my nursing pet peeves…

Well, today is the day where I am going to sound extremely critical of our profession, but it is what the question entails. And we are encouraged to be critical thinkers to improve services. However, I am aware that I am still studying and only at the very beginning of my career with lots to learn. So, I in no way think that I have all the answers. Anyway, here goes. I have addressed several of my nursing pet peeves in previous blog posts:

  • Poor patient care due to understaffing or poor communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Patient choice being neglected in favour of ease for healthcare practitioners – particularly concerning end-of-life care.
  • Insufficient understanding and delivery of palliative care.
  • Lack of emotional and psychological support for nursing students and nurses.
  • The failure of the government to secure bespoke funding for nursing students. In Scotland, the bursary is not enough. Elsewhere in the country, the student loan system, where students are getting in massive amounts of debt to become nurses, certainly isn’t working.
  • Incorrectly measured and documented observations endangering patient safety and health outcomes.
  • Lack of respect for nursing as a degree educated profession, which applies to both fellow nurses and society in general.
  • A nursing workforce that is not representative of the communities we serve.
  • Nurses being resistant to or unwilling to adapt and change.
  • The varied roles of the modern nursing not being understood.
  • Nurses who are not politically active or using their voices to affect real change and champion the profession – you can’t complain if you aren’t doing anything about it.
  • Nursing history being viewed with rose-tinted glasses. It is time to look forward.
  • The lack of education around nursing history at universities. How can we improve the future without understanding and improving upon the past

However, there are a couple of nursing pet peeves that I haven’t previously discussed.

Firstly, the reticence of certain individuals and institutions to encourage and support younger, newly qualified and student nurses in leadership roles. Sometimes the best leaders are not those with the most experience. In fact, having a fresh pair of eyes, different perspective or new vision – whatever you call it – and being on the shop floor, working directly with patients day-in-day-out, can be what makes them the best people to advocate for patients and nurses and to champion the profession.

Lastly, as a student nurse, one of my biggest pet peeves is being called “the student”. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, I jokingly say: “my name is Craig”. But it is just rude. Don’t do it. Respect is a two-way street, and students are people too. We are the future of the profession after all.

Sorry about the rant – I promise that tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual chipper self. Would love to hear if you agree or disagree with my nursing pet peeves and any additional ones you have.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85

3 self-care ideas…

Undertaking a nursing degree is all-consuming; it is without question physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, which is why self-care and mental health support is so essential. A nursing degree isn’t like a standard degree at university. On top of all our academic work, we must complete 2300 clinical practice hours on placement so that we can join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.

Due to this, we do not have the long summers off that other courses do. The majority of student nurses have to work additional hours on top of placements to manage financially. In Scotland, we may still have the NHS funded nursing bursary, which helps; but it is only a token amount, not a sustainable living wage. Also, many nursing students are completing their studies while raising and supporting a family. I take my hat off to these incredible parents. I am in awe and think it is so inspirational for your children to see you working towards a degree; because we all know you are working hard.

Back to self-care: with university, placements, assignments, exams, work, oh, and raising a family, where do people find the time? There are three things I try to do; maybe they will work for you.

Sleep:

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love to sleep. My bed is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in the world. The importance of a good night’s sleep should not be overlooked. Good sleep health helps reduce stress levels, and it allows our brain time to process all we are learning, both in class and on placement – because we are learning a lot. I don’t know about you, but my brain continually feels fried. We should all try and aim to get between 7-9 hours a night to function at our best. I know that can be challenging and may not always be possible, which is where my other favourite comes in – naps! I love a Grampa nap. Most days, when I come in from university or placement, I will have a nap. Then I’ll get up and get on with the work I have to do. Napping helps me to freshen up and resets my factory settings. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to focus. I know finding time for a nap may be difficult, particularly for those with families. However, research done by NASA shows the optimal nap length to be 25 minutes. Can you find 25 minutes?

Family and friends:

Spend time with your loved ones, please. The demands of our course and chosen profession means we can be guilty of neglecting them. I know I am, and this is a public apology to my wonderfully supportive partner and family, who probably wish I focussed a little more energy on them and a little less on my course and other extracurricular pursuits – please know I love and appreciate you so much. Our loved ones are a big reason why we are all doing this, right? To have a better life – for them or with them? I know that I always feel so much better when I switch off from it all and focus my energy on them – and I mean switch off, as in: “Turn of your phone Craig!”. Life is too short. Yes, our studies are important, but so are our loved ones.

Binge watch:

I love film and TV. More than anything, I love finding an excellent series on Netflix, Amazon or Sky and just binge-watching away. Recent binges have included: Queer Eye, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, 13 Reasons Why, Damages, The Killing, Homeland, and Stranger Things. Please feel free to suggest some more for me to watch in the comments section below. I love the escapism that comes with getting involved in a good series. If you can’t watch it all in a binge, then find a series you like and ration the episodes. You still get the benefit of forgetting you are a student nurse for 45-60 minutes and becoming an enraptured viewer. To avoid the procrastination guilt, you could even treat yourself to an episode every time you get a piece of work done. Might have to start trying that one myself.

So, there are my three self-care ideas. In no way do I profess to be a self-help guru. I can’t wait to read all of yours. Please leave some ideas in the comments below.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85

When did I decide to be a nurse…

Nursing has always been a massive part of my life: my mum trained as a general nurse, then did her paediatric conversion, and laterally trained as a midwife, before becoming a neonatal intensive care nurse, where she worked for over 25 years. She would take my siblings and me up to visit the babies in the hospital, especially at Christmas time. I have very fond memories of those visits to Yorkhill Sick Children’s Hospital in Glasgow, which is sadly no longer there.

I knew from that young age that I wanted to work in healthcare; that I wanted to help sick people get better. At that time, I wanted to go into medicine, to be a doctor. I had a toy doctor’s kit, collected the “How My Body Works” books, which included a human anatomy model you got to build piece-by-piece, and I had an unquenchable thirst for information. I was set on becoming a doctor; it never entered my head to be a nurse. It was never suggested to me – not at school, not by careers advisors, not even by my mum and her nurse colleagues. Why? Worryingly, I think because I was a boy. Nursing wasn’t something to aspire towards. Nursing was a “girl’s job”. Also, if you got good grades at school, which I worked hard to achieve, then you were too “clever” for nursing, and you should push yourself to something harder, where the pay was better. I wish I could say that this has changed since I was in high school, 16 years ago, but I don’t think it has.

Anyway, I got the grades to apply to university to study medicine, but as I have mentioned in previous blogs, I moved to London, aged 18, to pursue a career in acting; quite the career shift, I know. While I don’t regret the time I spent in London, and it has given me many transferable skills, in addition to lots of stories, I missed academia. I missed using my brain, and I felt unfulfilled in my chosen career.

Fast-forward to early 2016, aged 30. I had recently moved back to Glasgow after 12 and a half years in London. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? I spoke to my mum about this at length. I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could make a difference, but also after years of insecurity in the acting world; I wanted to have a career where there was constant work.

I started volunteering as a nursing assistant at Medicinema, a charity based in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital complex in Glasgow. It is an in-house cinema, where patients are brought in from the wards to watch the most recent cinema releases. They are taken care of by nurses and nursing assistants who volunteer their time. I loved it. I enjoyed talking to the patients and their families and seeing how happy this experience made them. These patients were in such a vulnerable place in the hospital, and something as simple as coming to the cinema and having a chat with me as I brought them over to the cinema from the wards helped to brighten their day. I discovered my years in acting had allowed me to develop my communication and interpersonal skills. These skills coupled with what I believe is an innate compassionate and empathetic quality I possess, made me think that I could be a nurse. Why not?

I had toyed with the idea of trying to get back into medicine; but the more I volunteered at Medicinema, talked to the nurses, and spent time with the patients, the more I realised I wanted to be a nurse. I believed as a nurse I would be able to have more one-to-one contact with patients where I could get to know them and follow them on their journey. I researched nursing roles more and was interested in the advanced nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist roles. Nursing had evolved so much, and more than ever, there is a wealth of varied career opportunities and progressions. These opportunities excited me. So, I decided to apply to be a nurse.

As my school and university qualifications were out of date, having graduated in 2006, I had to apply for a college course first, to prove I was able to work at the necessary academic level. In August 2016, I began my HNC in Care and Administrative Practice at Glasgow Clyde College. Based on my grades, statement, and interview, I was then successful in gaining a place on a widening access programme, which allowed me to articulate directly into the second year of the BSc Nursing Studies (Adult) course at Glasgow Caledonian University.

So, it’s been a long and winding route for me to get into nursing, and I think I’m a better nurse for it with my extra life experience. The additional life experience that can come with being a mature student is why I think it’s unforgivable that the scrapping of the bursary in England is leading to a decrease in mature nursing students. We have a lot to offer, and it is a loss to the profession. I would also like to hark back to my earlier point: why was I, a young boy passionate about going into healthcare, not encouraged to go into nursing at school? This is a problem, and it is something I passionately believe we need to change and am currently advocating for. I think the nursing workforce should be as diverse as the communities we serve, and that we should be encouraging all who possess the necessary values and academic abilities to become nurses, regardless of gender.

Craig.

@CraigDavidson85