After a talk, I was sipping my tea when one of the mothers approached. ‘You spoke well,’ she said, ‘but, honestly, would you recommend nursing to your daughter if she had good A-level results?’
Nursing has an image problem. Once the Daily Mail called us ‘angels’ and sponsored the Nurse of the Year Awards. Now it employs writers to tell readers how dreadful nursing is, and readers swamp forums competing to tell the worst story about heartless, lazy nurses.
But that’s only part of the story and perhaps we should tell the other.
Nursing is a wonderful career and there’s never been a better time to nurse. Nurses have a range of career options. They can manage, teach, work at strategic level or remain clinicians. In the past, if nurses wanted to advance in their careers, they had to leave the bedside. New roles such as nurse practitioners, nurse specialists and nurse consultants have enabled experienced nurses to remain in clinical practice.
In some ways, nursing is more demanding than ever. Staff work harder to care for patients with complex needs. Relatives – a minority, thankfully – can be difficult, hectoring and bullying, all too aware of their rights but ignorant of their responsibilities.
One of the saddest parts of modern nursing is that some students consider themselves students, not student nurses. The gap between being a student and a registered nurse has widened dramatically and we have to invest a great deal of time in helping newly registered nurses to become confident and competent. But it is worth it.
People value nurses. This month I went into London to browse the bookshops. I got there too early, found a cafe and ordered breakfast. When I asked for the bill, the owner told me it was on the house because I’d nursed his mother 20 years ago. What made my day was that he recognised me after all those years.
So, yes, I would recommend nursing to my daughter, who has good A-levels. However, she is stubborn and independent and has chosen her own path. I may have more luck with my son.
Linda Nazarko is a nurse consultant at Ealing PCT
Want to read more of Linda Nazarko’s opinions? Just click on the more by this author link at the top of the page.