Continence nurse, Vivien, remembered the answer to this question when she attended the Nursing Times Awards 2016
I first decided to enter the Nursing Times Awards one Sunday morning when I was sitting in bed. Although it had always been a dream of mine to be able to do something like this, I never felt I could because of my dyslexia. It takes me so much time to write - I avoid writing lengthy articles at all costs!
But I love my work in continence and I wanted to show the work we do and the positive impact we make to our patients’ lives. It’s always been said continence is the “unglamorous” part of nursing but I feel this is just down to people not knowing the work we do and the positive feedback we get from patients.
“When I heard we’d got through to the final it took me a while to take it all in”
Anyway, I sat in my bed that morning and just started writing about the pelvic stability group. My colleague, Cath, worked with me over several Sundays editing my work, it took some skills on her part to work out what I was trying to say!
The deadline loomed and everyone helped me get the final draft ready. These people included IT, our communications team and the very small kingfisher team.
I finally did it and pressed the submit button, then went over the pub to celebrate with a very large glass of wine. It made us laugh a great deal when the deadline was later extended!
When I heard we’d got through to the final it took me a while to take it all in. Once I’d finally realised that the email meant we’d got through, I felt such excitement! Until, that is, I realised I had to do a presentation. I had never done anything like that before.
“Often the two of us were running the clinic on our own”
But I found that I really did enjoy writing my presentation immensely - even though I did it mostly by pictures. Cath and I came to London and did the presentation confidently. Afterwards, we were so proud of ourselves we treated ourselves to a little shopping trip before returning home!
We had had a very tough year in our work with the continence service going through transformation. Many staff had decided they didn’t want to continue in nursing and we’d spent a year being very short staffed. Often the two of us were running the clinic on our own.
Despite this, we were committed to making sure we continued with the work for the pelvic stability group.
“When we walked in and saw how beautiful it was, with so many friendly nurses, we instantly relaxed”
Both of us came to the Nursing Times Awards ceremony feeling very fragile and unsure if we could continue in our careers as continence nurses. We both felt we had become despondent and we talked together before attending the awards about how we felt.
We were both nervous to attend that night however when we walked in and saw how beautiful it was, with so many friendly nurses, we instantly relaxed.
Then Jenni Middleton came onto the stage and her opening speech made us feel so proud to be nurses.
In that speech, she did something no one else had: she acknowledged how hard it is for nurses who go above and beyond their daily roles and that we deserve recognition for all our hard work.
“Recognition” - this was the word we had both wanted to hear for such a long time! And for someone to see what we do despite the challenges and difficulties we face.
We looked at each other and just smiled as we remembered why we came into nursing all those years ago.
It’s because it is who we are. We care and we go above and beyond because it’s who we are and who we wanted to be and that is something you can’t change.
“We must just focus on our nursing of patients and not get disheartened with all the difficulties and challenges we face each day”
The night was just amazing because everyone we met was proud of what they had done and proud to be a nurse.
Even though we heard many similar stories not too dissimilar to our own, we understood why we are nurses. It is because of our patients, these are who we go to work for, not the politics.
Meeting a nurse at the ceremony who was still nursing at the age of 76 made us decide we must just focus on our nursing of patients and not get disheartened with all the difficulties and challenges we face each day. This lady gave us both a warm feeling as did Elizabeth Anionwu who won the CNO lifetime achievement award - what an inspiration.
I have now come back to work so much happier and I’m enjoying being a nurse again as I have remembered why I started nursing over 25 years ago.
Jenni Middleton made such an impact with her speech, something we will not forget in a long time; it was just what we needed to hear.
Thank you Nursing Times for an amazing evening - we stayed right to the end.
Vivien Easter and Catherine Betts, continence nurses