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‘There is no excuse for nurses to fail those without a voice’

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Caroline questions whether hard work really is enough for everyone in society to get where they want to be

Everything is possible, if only we try hard enough.

We are fed this message from childhood, through the education system and throughout adulthood through political manifestos and the media. The name for this message is ‘meritocracy’.

In nursing, we come across individuals from many different walks of life, and the opportunities open to them vary considerably. With that in mind, surely meritocracy cannot be consistent across society? 

Yet this is what we are taught and we still absorb the message that work achieves all. Children are born as equals, so where does it all go wrong?

Where I live, chance is a rarity and unemployed status is a euphemism for a lost life. It appears easier for people to condemn the people they see as being below them, than to challenge the entire system. This has led to the rise of racism and the ‘scrounger’ title being given to anyone not in work.

The few opportunities that are available are taken by those who know they are there, and those who do not know convince themselves that their lack of achievement is inevitable. False class consciousness is personified, tragically, linking to health and nursing care in very real ways.

Through nursing I have had the opportunity to help many people achieve their dreams. Those dreams are vast; some are grand, while others small. Some patients want to get better and to work in healthcare themselves, inspired by the treatment they have received. Others just want to learn how to walk. All are equally important, and one of the most rewarding parts of our role as nurses is helping them to build, achieve and protect those ambitions.

Yet for others, nursing means making sure there is food, shelter and safety. Their priorities are completely different even though they have passed through the same schools and endured the same systems where meritocracy supposedly exists.

This oppression is obvious, it is visible and it is present in every UK city.

For much of our time, nursing is about helping patients achieve their dreams. These treasured moments make the job more worthwhile.

Yet for every one person who achieves their ambitions, there are 10 others whose priorities are much smaller. Just being respected makes a difference, someone acknowledging that actually they are as good as anybody else and deserve the same respect.

That is where the true skills of nursing lie; being non-judgemental, listening, smiling and caring.

Nursing is not just about helping patients achieve their ambitions. It is about making the nightmares more manageable for patients who live a life where meritocracy will never exist. Politics may fail the weakest, the poorest, and those without voice; there is no excuse for nurses to fail them too.


Caroline Estrella is a third year adult branch student at Nottingham University

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