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Nursing: a wonderfully social profession


Nursing Times blogger Martin Jones takes us through his thoughts as an old nursing injury gives him time alone to reflect on the sociality of his profession.

Last Saturday evening I leaned to click the computer mouse as I walked past it, twisting awkwardly and aggravating an old nursing injury in my lower back. I re-sent the unwanted echo from the bad old days when I lifted heavy patients in the 1980s. I feel it regularly - say, after gardening, but have put plenty of time and effort into maintenance and prevention. I’m fit and active and go to the gym. It hadn’t been so painful or disabling for years.

Alcohol, paracetamol and my refusal to cancel saw me through a dinner party. However, I rose unable to dress independently, my wife helping me on with boxers, trousers, socks and shoes. A trip to our walk-in GP was inevitable. What a good service: a modern premises away from the hospital’s accident and emergency department (which I did not need) and it is open 8am until 8pm seven days a-week. Dosed with stronger pain-killers, I was determined to get on with things.

Unable to ride my bike as usual, I walked in to work on Tuesday. Sitting down was a problem; HIV clinic is a largely sedentary activity. I struggled on for three and a half hours before accepting the inevitable: I had to walk home, unfit for work. This is an unfamiliar state of affairs. In 16 years in Eastbourne’s sexual health clinic I’ve had far fewer than 16 days off sick. I’ve hated the last week.

Nursing is a social business: listening, talking, interacting. The HIV clinic is especially social as I’m seeing patients - some of whom I have known for six, eight, 10, 12 years and more. I’ve known them during times of crisis and extreme ill health; they’ve shared with me their hopes, fears and intimacies. While taking blood samples we’ve chatted more generally about partners, families, friends, jobs, entertainment, the price of fish. I’ve missed the company. No patients, no colleagues.

I have also had to recognise that the clinic can manage perfectly well without me. I ‘popped in’ during a therapeutic walk and of course my excellent fellow HIV nurse had everything under control. I was off sick and surplus to requirements. It’s salutary to recognise that the world keeps spinning without me.

I spent the rest of the week on codeine and paracetamol, taking walks and visiting a chiropractor. Improvement has been slow, although I can now dress independently with a little careful reaching. By Saturday I was fed up with solitude, analgesia and its side effects. I’m moving cautiously and am able to sit again – hence this blog - so it’s back to work tomorrow to pick up where I left off and survey my blemished sickness record.

Thinking about my (short) time off makes me reflect on some of my patients and how their lives have been significantly changed by sickness and disability. By comparison I have little to grumble about. This has been a thoroughly frustrating episode that I am determined to put behind me as quickly as possible. Some patients are not so fortunate.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

About Martin

Martin Jones, Clinical Nurse Specialist HIV, East Sussex Downs & Weald. He has worked in sexual health and HIV since 1986.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Nursing could be said to be a social profession especially considering the fact you have to meet a lot of people, talk with them, keep patients company, counsel them and their families, etc.

    But I have come to see that outside the work place, a lot of nurses find it so difficult to socialize.

    You hardly find nurses on facebook, bloggers, twitters, forum sites, etc talking or writing about themselves. They hardly participate in those social networks out there.

    I think we really need to improve upon our social lives as nurses.

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  • Joseph Ezie Efoghor | 13-Nov-2010 3:55 pm

    You surprise me and reassure me at the same time as I thought this phenomenon of social isolation was mine alone and work induced.

    It is true in my career in Europe I have come across such a wide variety of individuals from all over the world and every walk of life and social class as well as extremely varied experience with no two working days alike. This has been a highly enriching experience which I believe this has turned me into a far more outgoing person with a broad range of interests. Nursing also teaches good interpersonal and communication skills sometimes involving serveral languages and respecting individuals of many different beliefs, values and religions.

    I thought these skills would serve me for life outside work as well in retirement and although I think I am open and ready to strike up a conversation with most people I find it difficult to adapt to life outside the medical environment and to integrate. I might add that I prefer face to face communications and am highly sceptical of all things electronic, mainly because of personal privacy and security.

    At work it did sometimes strike me when socialising with nursing colleagues, medics and other professionals how limited their conversation often was and focussed on their work, even outside the working environment, or on banter about patients which I never enjoyed engaging in as I found this distasteful and unprofessional.

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  • There have been times in my life when outside work I have found it very hard to socialise unless I was with work colleagues or I could talk about work.
    I realised that with a uniform on I am protected as if I am wearing armour,I am more confident to approach people and am more assertive.
    However growing older,age and experience has been a great help, at last I am comfortable with myself all because of lifes experiences and I am no longer hesitant to talk to someone in the que wherever I may be and cracking a joke in an appropriate circumstance allways helps.

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  • It's true if you go to a dinner or cocktail party the conversation invariably turns to jobs. Many jobs seem to charm and fascinate but when it comes to nursing what is there to say. We can't talk too much about our patients, other people's suffering and illnesses are usually taboo and bedpan jokes are not too appetising!

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