Jane Ball, Principal Research Fellow, University of Southampton, and Doctoral Student at Karolinska Institute, Sweden
”I recently heard two people describe how their lives had been turned upside down by life-threatening illness.
john edwards headshot
”John, a 33 year old chef, had been feeling unwell for a few days. Within hours he went from feeling a bit off colour to being alarmingly unwell; he lost his sight in both eyes, turned a strange colour, and after his wife consulted with the GP, was sent by ambulance to hospital. The bacterial infection that had started as a nasty cold had gone into his blood stream. His body was losing the battle and shutting down. He was in septic shock (Sepsis) with only hours left to live unless treated right away with intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics (and the rest of the Sepsis six care bundle).
”As a promising young dance student, in her teens Lauren developed bilateral pneumonia, which led to her spending time in hospital. Some months later she resumed her studies and got straight As. With grades like those she could do anything she was told.
“Both John and Lauren described how the care they had received from nurses had affected them. In their darkest hour, when everything they thought they knew about themselves, their bodies, their futures was suddenly hanging in the balance, it was the skilled, intelligent and kind care of nurses that got them through – both the physical and emotional turmoil that ill health creates.
”It had a profound effect.
”John left hospital with an insight into what nursing was; the power it has to not just save lives but to be a make the process of recovery (or adjustment) more bearable. He was impressed by the way nurses fused professionalism and compassion to engender trust in patients, so that even the most awkwardly intimate yet fundamental moments of care, such as needing a bedpan, are navigated with minimal embarrassment. Situations that are abnormal to us as individuals in our everyday lives – like needing to go to the toilet whilst remaining in bed – can be handled with the same professionalism and care that is used to undertake a complex clinical intervention, or to manage a difficult conversation about living with an uncertain prognosis.
”He and Lauren saw the value of nursing clearly, in way that perhaps many of us have either never seen or have lost sight of. They had first-hand experience of the immense value of nursing care.
“John left with a determination – against the odds and despite it requiring family sacrifices – to take a second degree. To give back something of what he had benefitted from. To become a nurse.
“Lauren also decided to embark on a career in healthcare. With straight A’s she should consider a career in medicine she was advised. ‘Why would I want to do medicine if I don’t want to be a doctor?‘ she responded. ‘I want to be a nurse’. She too, chose to apply for a nursing degree.
lauren dowd headshot 2
“I heard Lauren and John speak at the Florence Nightingale Foundation Conference. They were the last two speakers of two days. It’s a great event – pulls people in from all spheres of nursing – practice, management, policy, planning, research, and education, and from every sector. The common thread is a desire to step back and think about how we as nurses can play our part better – how we make a difference, be more effective in supporting our colleagues and ultimately to strengthen the profession’s ability to advance patient care.
”Afterwards I spoke with the Elizabeth Robb, the conference host and Chief Executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and said how powerful I had found these two short presentations; they had saved the best ‘til last. ‘What, because of the focus on care and compassion?’ she asked. ‘No, not that. But the way they’ve captured so well the true value of nursing. They felt it and experienced it. And they placed such a high value on it, they have chosen it, above all else.’
“Throughout the conference there were moments when different speakers or members of the audience touched on this as a challenge – how can the public, the media, politicians, and others – have an understanding of the value of professional nursing care?
“The value these two people place on nursing, and their ability to communicate that so well through word and deed inspired me. Nurses – in whatever role they practice – need to follow their lead. And to let the regard we have for our profession, and the value we know patients and team members place on it, to be evident from what we say and do. To value our own contributions – to one person’s life, to a research study, to teaching others how to save a life - and stand up and make those contributions known to others.
”Not everyone has either the opportunity or the nerves to stand on a conference stage. And not everyone wants to spend Sunday morning writing a blog. But we know that nursing matters and is a critically important element of healthcare. We know it’s a privilege to be given the chance to do it, to have been educated to become a registered nurse, and to be entrusted with the responsibilities we hold. We can ask others to value nursing more. Or this Nurses day, we can do it ourselves. Make who we are and what we do visible. Be proud to be a nurse, and, like Lauren and John, let that pride shine.
Lauren Dowd graduated with a first class honours degree in Nursing from Keele University, in 2015. After working as a staff nurse in critical care she now works at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
John Edwards is still a student with the Open University and also works as a health care assistant in Winchester.
Sarah Suddick, registered nurse in a residential home
”My mentor for my chronic illness placement was Kim Coxall-Huggings. She is a children’s community nurse who specialises in respiratory illness at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
”Right from my initial contact with the placement Kim was very kind and friendly, she put me at ease and built up my confidence.
”She was interested in my prior knowledge and was always thinking of ways to build on this. For example, I’d learned about TB through previous studies and she encouraged me to attend a TB clinic and write a case review. She had a patient with bronchitis and she made sure I listened to their chest to learn the difference between pneumonia and bronchitis and she even asked me to demonstrate to patients and hospital staff how to use inhalers.
“Her encouragement has stayed with me and her compassion to teaching and nursing has been an amazing example of what sort of nurse I want to be. I will never forget her kindness.”
Victoria Gardiner, Bristol
”I have recently returned home after volunteering for my first time on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship - the Africa Mercy. The ship, which is run by international charity Mercy Ships, sails to some of the poorest countries in the world to deliver free, life-saving medical care.
”Volunteering for Mercy Ships has always been something I dreamt of doing since before my nurse training.
”I think to be able to take the skills and knowledge that you have been given to help others who have no other option is a real honour and privilege.
”During my time on the ship, which is currently docked in Madagascar, I worked on a surgical ward specialised to VVF patients.
”These ladies have come to Mercy Ships because they have suffered from fistula, an impairment which is sustained in childbirth, leaving many women leaking urine and faeces for many years and rejected by the community because of it.
”I also worked on rotation on some of the other wards, including maxillofacial and plastics, where many patients have large facial tumours, cleft lips,
victoria gardiner mercy ships
noma, among other debilitating conditions.
”The most amazing part is witnessing the transformation of so many patients, physically and emotionally. Many patients even learn to read and write during their time on board.
”Professionally I’ve learnt a lot about different conditions; things I hadn’t experienced before. I have seen things that I have never seen, as many of the patients are suffering from conditions that are unlikely to be seen in the UK.
”Volunteering on the ship has given me a new outlook on my job as a nurse – since I have returned home I appreciate more. My job, whether back home or in Africa, is always very rewarding, however, I think the difference here is what you get back from the patients; the love, joy and transformation is far more rewarding than what you can actually give them.”
Liz Charalambous, Staff nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and PhD student at The University of Nottingham
”I started my day at 7.30am by turning on my computer at the University of Nottingham.
I’m currently working on my PhD proposal and end of year confirmation review which I have to pass in order to continue into my 2nd year. My research is a qualitative study into the role of volunteers in dementia and acute hospital wards, a previously unexplored area.
”Having been clinically based for 32 years and having to previously fit my studies into my spare time, its a real luxury to sit at a desk for hours on end reading, writing and searching for information.
”Part of my afternoon was spent writing a blog for The Guardian newspaper and then I went to a meeting to put the finishing touches to my poster for a conference in June to present my MSc research findings.
“It may seem routine to others and maybe unexpected for a nurse to fill their day sat at a desk, but I find it completely absorbing and fascinating with the best part yet to come; the possibility that my research has the potential to help people with dementia in hospital.”