Nursing is arriving on time in a clean, ironed uniform. It is embodied by symbols like badges and fob watches, scissors and torches.
A pocket full of pens and comfortable shoes are part of the package. Nursing is a professional image that every individual recognises regardless of language, gender, culture or age. It is a worldwide logo. And it should be represented with effort and respect.
Nursing is approaching work with a smile, even when things are difficult and the pressure is on. It is maintaining eye contact with relatives and giving them confidence their loved one will be fine once they have gone home - and then making sure that they actually are fine. It is the writing of care plans and risk assessments, but it is not paperwork. It is ward rounds with consultants and the translation of medical jargon into accessible language, but it is not being a doctor’s assistant.
Nursing is caring, but appropriately. It is not the ownership of someone else’s pain but rather the ability to help a person cope with it and move on. It is compassion, but with boundaries. It is a role like no other, and a special one. Nursing is the privilege of protecting the vulnerable and understanding the evidence to inform how it can be best done. Nursing is education put into action.
Nursing is still alive once the uniform has been shed - the knowledge and desire to help when off-duty remains. Nursing is assisting in road traffic accidents, or when someone is unwell in town. It is a quiet word to neighbours and friends who need medical advice. Nursing is a full-time identity, but a necessary one and on a worldwide scale. As this is read, across time zones and languages, hundreds of thousands of nurses are nursing. Tomorrow it will continue. Nursing is universal.
Nursing is the ethereal quiet of a night shift, and a reassurance of patients. It is the pathway between patient and doctor, and the link to other services. It is the lamp in the dark and the hope for the hopeless. It is the driving force of care from birth to death and the wish to make every health experience in-between as good as it can be. Nursing has a bettering quality; it is the driving force to be a role model and behave appropriately and with pride. Nursing is not ageist; it is the retired 70 year-old looking back to when she was a Sister. Nursing is the 16 year-old care worker with aspirations to learn more. Nursing is male, female, black, white, straight and gay. It is everywhere and it is everyone - and so it should be, because it cares for everyone.
Nursing is everlasting despite difficulty. There is no future for healthcare without nursing. Nursing is long labour, physical and mental demand and pay unrepresentative of responsibility. Nursing is cleaning, teaching, caring, leading and following, and all at the same time. In spite of negative newspaper articles an army of committed people continue to work day and night, bank holidays and weekends. Nurses do it because they care; they do it because they are committed.
Nurses are #whatisnursing. And I am immensely proud to be a part of it.
Caroline Estrella is a newly qualified nurse studying towards her masters