Today I had a fight; not a real “coming to blows” fight but I had to fight. I had to have the courage and wisdom to stand up to a group of lay people.
In healthcare we have a language, understanding, culture and humour that does not always translate well to others. I had to explain why education is so important in nursing. Not the media version but my version. I needed the wisdom to realise that I had an opportunity, as a nurse, to explain the realities and challenges of nurse education that I am part of and that my colleagues face each day.
I was bombarded with “Why are nurses educated to degree level, they don’t need it?”, “What was wrong with the old style training?”, “Nurses have lost the ability to care!”, “There is too much emphasis on academia”.
I have always defended nursing and professional development; first as a healthcare assistant, then a student nurse, a staff nurse, a ward sister and in my current role. Always defending the education and training I was receiving. That education has enabled me to be the nurse I am today.
Despite any job title I have had, when asked what I do I always reply: “I am a nurse.” I am proud to be a nurse, I believe in my profession and my colleagues. My current role as resuscitation officer allows me to cross many specialties within the NHS; I see excellence - and the opposite - in every area. In my role I try to encourage all staff to be better. Nursing is not just a vocation for me; it is part art, part science and part of who I am.
Being unwell in the strange environment of a hospital is a frightening experience. Having someone to care for you holistically, who is on your side and can understand and translate what is happening is invaluable. Being able to offer this comes partly from education, partly from who you are.
I have the knowledge and skills to work with others to help save a life, make someone more comfortable, smile, hold a hand, listen and make cups of tea. I think I have the courage and wisdom to face daily life and possible death with my patients and their families. I continue to offer support and guidance to the staff I work with to enable them to face their ever-increasing workload with professionalism and pride.
I accept that for some people no matter what I say it will be rebuked. In this instance five people listened, questioned and challenged me. Three acknowledged and understood my point of view, two refused to see that education could make a difference. Without education that conversation would never have happened; this was my personal victory. I still have much to learn but what I hope is that with passion and commitment I can hold onto my courage and keep explaining and helping people to realise that nursing is a dynamic, complex and evolving profession that is striving to be the best and better. We need education if we are to achieve this.
Victoria Cooper is resuscitation officer at Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust and MSc student at the University of Surrey