“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, It requires an exclusive devotion”, said arguably the most famous nurse of all time, Florence Nightingale. Due to our devotion to our profession, are nurses unable to dedicate time to their own lives?
I want to discuss the idea that as nurses and student nurses, no matter what our field of practice or expertise, we don’t have time for life to get in the way of nursing.
For much of the time, due to the high emotional demand of the career we have chosen, going home doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your shift. Constantly thinking of others is not only emotionally draining but also takes away from our personal life. Do we have any time to give the people we love and care for the attention they need or deserve? Or are we so busy caring for other’s loved ones that ours come second?
“Do we have any time to give the people we love and care for the attention they need or deserve?”
When I was in my second year of nursing training I was a carer for my sister who was terminally ill with metastasised cancer. It soon became impossible to give both my full attention. This confliction meant that unfortunately I had to put my training on hold, something I dreaded happening for a while as I knew it would feel as if I had failed. Of course I now know that it was no fault of my own and in hindsight taking a break was a positive move for my career as a student nurse and in turn for my future career choice and job satisfaction.
This break in my studies showed me where my priorities lay within my practice. For me, that is communication and person-centred care, two things that I felt were a real struggle to achieve whilst working on a ward in a hospital. This could have been due to my personal experience and I am by no means suggesting that care within the hospital environment is not person-centred, but I do feel that, at times, communication suffers as a result of the work overload that inevitably comes froom having a large patient-to-nurse ratio.
“At times, communication suffers as a result of the work overload that inevitably comes from having a large patient-to-nurse ratio”
As my priorities for my practice had changed, I knew I needed to change my field of practice. However, it wasn’t my experience working as a student nurse on a ward but caring for my sister which was the real game changer. Learning disabilities branch felt like the right fit for me.
So in order to give a true reflection of how our soon to be and already registered nurses feel about their work-life balance I asked for their thoughts and feelings on the subject.
The most prominent response was the opinion that nursing training deserves to be hard. It is a profession that has high levels of risk at its core. We must keep our patients safe. Therefore is the fact that the course appears to be all-consuming not at least in part a strategy to filter out those who are not appropriate for the profession?
“It is passion for the profession and the caring nature of those who apply to study nursing which enables us to complete our training”
The idea that anyone would train to be a nurse for the wages seems unlikely and the long-standing press coverage of the poor pay nurses receive is unavoidable to a would-be student nurse. It is passion for the profession and the caring nature of those who apply to study nursing which enables us to complete our training and in turn make a career out of being a nurse.
Many nurses I have had the pleasure of training with have been in the profession since their early twenties and are now near retirement age. It is their commitment and continual development which demonstrates nursing is not merely an occupation but instead a way of life.
Liv Lindsay-Gould is Student Nursing Times’ learning disabilities student editor and a 3rd year learning disabilities student nurse, University of York