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Never ‘just’ a nurse


As the end of her course approaches, Lucy reflects on why she sometimes feels the need to use the word “just” when she tells people she is a nurse


I am seven weeks away from finishing my three years at university and jumping into the role of a qualified learning disabilities nurse.

I will adjust to my new staff nurse job by working as a healthcare worker until my much-awaited pin arrives. Then my name goes on the nursing register and I will be practicing for real, with real responsibility and not having to get everything I do counter-signed or supervised.

I have worked hard these past three years; long shifts and busy days, juggling assignments and my dissertation with portfolio and a job.

“I have worked hard these past three years”

Moving out of my parents’ house at 18 and into an unknown city and looking after myself independently, whilst doing a good job of looking after my patients too.

It has been a challenge, but one I have overcome and I am proud.

However, when people ask me what I am studying I sometimes catch myself saying this awful thing… “oh, just nursing”.


Just nursing.

Of course, this is something I need to stop doing immediately because we are not ‘just’ anything, but it is not a habit I am alone in, in fact it is a habit I have picked up from many other nurses and students who undermine our profession every time we admit we belong to it.

Why do we treat nursing without the pride it deserves?

Why don’t we stand up strong and say ‘I study nursing!’ I feel like nursing is one of the most internally oppressed professions, truly, because we are almost all guilty of it at some point. 

“It is a habit I have picked up from many other nurses and students who undermine our profession every time we admit we belong to it”

As nurses I feel we often put ourselves down, either in discussion of whether nursing should be a degree or not (“because it’s not academic”) or when we let other medical professionals stomp all over our medical opinion because we consider them to out-rank us (and allow them to think it too), when in fact we just have a different role.

Nursing is a respected profession to the majority of the outside world.

No, not everybody considers it an intellectual job or a science, and neither do all of us within the profession, and it really does depend what you do with your nursing registration and degree (because the options are endless), but even by those who do not address our academic side, they all respect our purpose and our necessity.

“The world simply would not get by without its nurses”

The world simply would not get by without its nurses. We are in a profession that will never die out, and has outlived many. Sure, technology will replace some tasks and change our skills, but personal hands on care for people with health needs will always be required.

So why do I say “just nursing” with such ease, or ignore the pangs of guilt when I dismiss our profession so thoughtlessly? And why do so many other nurses do the same?

The only people preventing our progression into a more academic (if that’s what you want) profession, or a proud profession who demand respect of other healthcare professionals and the public (which is something we should all be keen to strive for), is us.

No more “just a nurse”.

I am a soon-to-be nurse, and I will do many things within this profession, but being ashamed or dismissing our collective and individual importance is never going to be one of them.

I am hard working, I am caring, and I am proud.

Lucy Cleden-Radford is Student Nursing Times’ learning disability branch student editor


Readers' comments (2)

  • Brilliant! Good luck with your career!

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  • Lucy!!! It was SUCH a wonderful surprise to see your picture when I clicked on the link. This is an inspiring piece of writing that made me smile when I read through to the end. I love the way that you champion our profession. This is a piece that needed to be written because it is so true. When I am in my uniform I am proud to tell people I am a student nurse, when I walk through the hospital I am proud. But when I'm not in the uniform and I say 'nursing'?? I imagine that the other person is thinking of it as a 'soft' course that anybody could do. This job is challenging and this is not something I thought before beginning the course. Yes, nursing is generic and anyone might be able to 'do' it. But it's not 'just' giving personal care. It's giving personal care but finding that somebody has bruises which could indicate falls risk/safeguarding issues. It's not 'just' taking blood pressure. The nurse is monitoring for signs of infection/dehydration/bleeding/sepsis. And it's not 'just' toileting somebody. From this the nurse establishes that a patient is not in urinary retention but indeed requires laxatives.

    So nurses are always thinking, questioning and arriving at answers which is something that patients and the public don't necessarily see.

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