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'Becoming a nurse challenges our capacity to know, do, feel and be'


Embarking on a career in nursing is a surefire way to give your life meaning

The thing I like best about student nurses is that they want to be student nurses. Call me soppy, but I admire anyone with a willingness not to sleep for three years to build a career looking after the sick.

It’s easy to take this for granted, but I know one or two nurses who quietly shake their heads in disbelief in the face of new students, asking anything from, “Why are you coming into this?” to a more shrill “Run! This place will suck you dry and still demand more!” Such a welcoming speech is usually followed by a short silence and a shy “Thank you, matron”.

Student nurses can expect a lot of advice and support over the coming years. It may not always feel like support but invariably you will find someone is looking out for you, and people will care about how you do, progress and even feel. There will be times that, despite the best efforts of mentors, friends, tutors and colleagues, you may feel alone, inadequate, unable and burdened.

For what it’s worth, that is part of the process toward nursing and can recur long after you have qualified. Sometimes nursing well is also about managing our own uncertainties and discomfort.

Becoming a nurse is one of the only educational processes that challenges our capacity to know, do, feel and be. You need to learn skills, knowledge and ways of managing yourself that move beyond more traditional courses that just teach you ideas or things. And you need to learn how to merge those abilities into the qualities you already have - like drive and compassion - that brought you here.

Some of you may not like it, but most of you will. I can understand the imaginary matron’s warning point above but, for what it’s worth, yours is a good choice. No working day will be a waste and, in the face of the many strangers you’ll meet, you are going to make a difference. Good luck!


Readers' comments (3)

  • I agree with what you say to an extent here, but not all of it. I've said this before on other posts, and this goes for the other public services too, (and I had the same sense of duty and meaning in the military); we all enter the public services for a reason, they are a vocation as well as a profession and we enter them wanting to teach, to protect, to heal; in return we do get a sense of self worth and meaning in our lives.

    But is it worth it?

    Is that meaning worth all the stress, the underpayment, the hard work, long hours and demoralisation? Is it worth the physical and emotional toil or the thankless nature of the work? Especially when that very same sense of meaning and vocation is often used against us in emotional blackmail?

    Is it worth it?

    I used to think so. Now, I'm not so sure.

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  • excellent - this article should be made more widely available to include the general public and politicians and perhaps nurses would be viewed in a different light

    coming up to retirement and looking back on my career it was all very much more than worthwhile and my wide experience and training has inffluenced all my attitudes, beliefs and values and moulded me into who i am. its not only about the development of nursing skills but the vast diversity of people with whom one comes into contact and learning about many different cultures and what their individual needs are and learning to be flexible and adaptable in order to get on with others who often think and act differently from oneself

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  • Martin  Jones

    Hi Mark
    'I nurse therefore I am.'
    I go along with your proposal that nursing has helped me to know, do, feel and be. I'd say that this is a reciprocal process: nursing has made me the person that I am today - and that I bring what I now know, can do, feel and am to my nursing practice.

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