I’ve been doing a grand tour of the NHS recently, heading out to see hospitals, meet nurses and find out what is happening in the world of nursing, and what we should be writing about.
What fascinates me most is what inspires nurses to enter the profession in the first place – particularly those who come from a pre-Holby City/Casualty/ER/Grey’s Anatomy age, so they definitely weren’t seduced by the glamour of the on-screen persona of the work. (Funny how it’s all high-energy activities these shows portray – tending to a patient who has soiled the bed never seems to make the glamorous world of televised care).
So if it wasn’t being wooed by the on-screen images, then what was it that made our nurses don the uniform?
“The thought that I could definitely do it better than a nurse that looked after me when I had my tonsils out,” was the feeling communicated to me by one nurse.
“The belief that I could make a difference, and make people feel better,” was another, who had previously wanted to become a doctor, but changed course and said, like many nurses, it was the best decision they had ever made.
All too often, people portray nursing as a second-class job – one that is for people not good enough to make the academic grade and become doctors. But in fact, nursing requires as much intelligence, sense and sensitivity – some would argue more. It’s time to overthrow this stigma and make sure that the public knows just how much time it takes to educate and train a nurse, and just how bright and committed they have to be.
The degree-level registration being introduced for the profession will hopefully help change people’s minds about nursing. But we’ve already got some of the smartest, dedicated and experienced nurses in the profession, and we just need to stop hiding our assets and start shouting about them.
And that’s not just to the public, but also to the wider healthcare profession. If nurses take themselves seriously and genuinely appreciate their own significance in the health landscape, getting involved in GP commissioning and making sure their voices are heard, it is the first step to changing people’s perceptions. And it will prevent everyone thinking that nursing is all about frenetic life saving in lipgloss, as the television programmes would have us believe.