As I sat across from my head of year some 30 years ago in my careers talk, I told her that I wanted to be a nurse. She said, “but have you thought about being something a bit more academic like a radiographer?”
No, I definitely wanted to be a nurse. I don’t even really know why, but I did, and at the tender age of 21, I qualified as a registered nurse.
For me, the drivers were being able to help people – a cliche, I know – and the contact I would have with people. It has been brilliant to meet such a diverse mix of people – both patients and colleagues.
What never ceases to amaze me is the courage, dignity, love, tenderness, pride and achievement that I have witnessed on numerous occasions in interactions between patients and their loved ones, patients and healthcare professionals, and between colleagues. All while often having to deal with pain, sadness and uncertainty.
Nursing has been good to me and I still enjoy being a nurse after 22 years. For most of my career I have specialised in the care of patients who have sustained spinal cord injuries – like many areas of nursing, it can be very challenging at times, but equally it can be rewarding.
A great deal has changed in that time and as a profession, I feel we have really progressed with the introduction of degree training, more rigorous revalidation and a raised profile within the multidisciplinary team. These are all things that were needed and while change is not often popular, I was delighted when I graduated with my BSc some years after qualifying.
“Sadly, I don’t see nurses sitting talking to patients unless they are assisting with care or completing paperwork”
In spite of the steps nursing has taken, the challenges of increased activity, reduced lengths of stay and nursing shortages, it feels like I have less time with my patients.
Sadly, I don’t see nurses sitting talking to patients unless they are assisting with care or completing paperwork, which is a loss.
It is important for patients to be listened to, and for them to be able to express their concerns to a nurse who is not thinking about the five other things she has to do at that time.
I thoroughly enjoy sitting down and talking to my patients, listening to their fears, acknowledging that it is tough and just taking a moment to understand the enormity of their situation. It is important not to push their concerns to the side.
Through the challenging times that nurses are facing with staffing and pay, remembering why we entered into this profession is vital. The excellent service we provide helps patients get through some very tough times.
A great deal has changed for me personally over the past 22 years, but nursing has been a constant – always encouraging me to strive for best practice. It has also given me some of my best friends for which I am so very grateful.
Sian Rodger is health coaching nurse facilitator at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre