There’s a time and a place for negativity, but we should focus on the positive, writes Student Nursing Times editor Heather Phelan
In March, the chief nursing officer for England said that as nurses, we need to share more positive stories about nursing.
While she acknowledged the challenges and difficulties nurses face every day – such as low pay and understaffing – she said that this was the best way to encourage more students into nursing.
This got me thinking. Lately, it feels like all any of us do is complain. There’s an epidemic on my course of moaning – and I’m not immune to this – but we seem to find anything to whine about.
“My placement is too far away”; “I’ve already done a rehab placement”; “I was under-marked on an essay”; “My lectures are too boring”; “My mentor won’t let me do anything”.
This term, enough was enough. I’d had my fill. I was sick and tired of looking at the bad side of everything. Maybe I wasn’t under-marked on that essay; maybe I should have put more effort in. Maybe if my mentor isn’t letting me do anything, I should talk to him about it.
And maybe, instead of complaining that a lecture isn’t interesting to me, I should stop looking at it as entertainment, and start thinking about what it’s teaching me.
But it didn’t stop there. On my last placement, the nurses warned me about the horrors of nursing – “It’s too hard on your feet”; “The pay is too low”; and “You’ll switch to a medical degree in a few years, right? Don’t get stuck in nursing.”
I was exhausted from dealing with such negativity every day.
I wanted to yell at these nurses, “This was your choice. You chose to be here. You’re helping people. If you don’t like it anymore, then leave. Do something else. If you’re worried about money – you’re in the wrong job.”
This isn’t to say that all their complaints aren’t valid. Nursing is among the most unappreciated professions out there.
We all know that we’re grossly underpaid, overworked, and facing difficult challenges every day. But there is a time and a place for complaining about these things.
It’s so important to have a national discussion about these issues. If we’re frustrated about low wages, maybe we can channel that feeling into something productive – going on a march, signing a petition and taking an active role in the fight. Complaining helps no one, and it gets us down.
Yes, there are some battles to be fought in nursing, but what we do is incredible and important, and a privilege. If you focus on the positive and change your mindset, it can become the rewarding, meaningful job that it should be.
It would be so easy to dismiss what I’m saying here with, “You’re a student – wait a few years and you’ll be just like the rest of us.”
Hey, maybe that’s true, or maybe we need to hold on to this feeling of excitement and optimism. Because when times get tough and the negativity gets to you – that feeling is all you have.