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Whose job is it to inspire nurses?

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I’m not sure I’ve heard the word “inspire” so many times in one day as I have in the last 24 hours.

Last night we hosted the ever-inspiring Student Nursing Times Awards. Student nurses from all over the UK, their parents, tutors and friends gathered together with bated breath to eat a life-changing chocolate mousse and to discover whether they’d won a perhaps even more life-changing Student NT award.

If you follow Student NT on Twitter you will be well aware of how much these awards mean to our finalists. And the tweets keep coming. Despite the anticipated hangovers, our winners are having a pretty good day by all accounts.

NT editor, Jenni Middleton, opened the awards with the congratulations you’d expect, but this year she also talked about a phenomenon that seems pretty unique to the profession – nurses’ habit of putting themselves down. Jenni asked the audience to promise to never refer to themselves as “just a nurse”. “Do doctors ever refer to themselves as ‘just a doctor’?” she asked. “I can tell you now, they don’t.”

Cue much whooping and clapping from the room full of deservedly proud nurses and soon-to-be nurses.

But that’s just a room of 700 people. Is that pride felt throughout the profession? Why do we hear “I’m just a nurse” so frequently? As a degree-trained profession, you guys are pretty hard on yourselves. And that, to me, is the most important aim of both the Student NT Awards and the Nursing Times awards in November – to remind nurses that your job title is something to be proud of – it certainly isn’t second best to “doctor” – ask any patient.

But we’re not the only ones with this mission. I had the pleasure of sitting next to one of the judges for the ‘Most Inspirational Student Nurse’ category during the ceremony. I can’t imagine it’s easy choosing one person over others for that category but she told me the winner was clear from the start.

What made Deborah Huyton stand out wasn’t that she had overcome adversity, but that she uses every opportunity in her role to improve the lives of others. Her volunteer work overseas is selfless and, to use the word of the day, inspiring.

It’s nurses and student nurses like Deborah who are the real champions of nursing pride. Hearing “you should be proud” repeatedly from Nursing Times is all very well, but it’s colleagues, mentors and role models who really embed this message. That means it’s you – so never put yourself or your profession down. You do a fabulous job in a crucial profession – never forget that.

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