When your actions directly affect a person’s life, you need to be dedicated
When you look up the definition of commitment, you’ll see it concerns a pledge or a promise, an obligation to something. I prefer the definition that describes commitment as dedication.
Healthcare, whatever area you are in, is not a career upon which you can or should embark unless you are dedicated to it. There is an everyday challenge of providing a service where your actions directly affect a person’s life. I can only talk about my own experiences and commitment to nursing.
From the age of four, when I had my little nurse’s outfit and bag and would insist that everyone I met allowed me to bandage them, rub them with talc and inject them with a fake syringe, I have always wanted to be a nurse.
I qualified in 2001 and started work at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. I knew I wanted to work in sexual health and that it would take a lot of hard work to do this.
While I worked full time, I self-funded an advancing skills in contraception module, which I completed in my own time, often attending university after a night shift or rushing from a placement to work. I then acquired minimal hours for Abacus sexual health clinics and worked them around my full-time job. In 2007, I finally acquired full-time hours and made the switch, taking a lower-band job to do so.
What does commitment look like?
● Awareness of the challenges ahead and working to overcome these for the sake of your patient and your team
● Accepting that your social life may, at times, be secondary to the needs of your patients
● Maintaining your own health to be the very best role model
● Exhibiting a willingness to learn from your co-workers
● Always striving to provide the best possible guidance and care for your patients
My current role as lead nurse sees me making and supporting decisions to ensure patients receive the best care that our service can offer, and supporting our team to deliver this. This is not always easy, but knowing that you are acting in the best interest of the patient is all the motivation that’s required.
Nursing requires you to always put the patient first. This can mean working late when someone is sick, putting a uniform on and working nights when your friends are dressed up and out partying, opening your Christmas presents a day late, and being shouted at by people who are upset, scared or in pain.
It also means realising that you are an ambassador for health and, in that sense, you are never off duty.
Sometimes being a nurse in sexual health means sitting in your car and crying at the grief or inexplicable cruelty you have seen that day - but knowing that you will still get up and do it all again tomorrow, and will use each and every experience to make you a better nurse.
This is not something you can do unless you are committed to your role.
In our sexual health services, I have worked with some of the most inspiring doctors and nurses with the same vision. Our team is full of people who are committed to making it a service of which we are proud.
Stephanie O’Connor is the lead nurse for Abacus Clinics for Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at Liverpool Community Health Trust