Being a Nurse

It is a question of then and now!

These days not a month goes by without nurses being in the limelight and for all the wrong reasons. Nurses never used to be in media as much,but were held in great public affection. I trained first in India as a health visitor. In India nursing has never been seen as a “respectable” profession or something to aspire to. In the class riddled society of the sub continent, nurses always came from a “lower” class. A lot of Christian, Hindu and women of schedule casts went into the profession. When I wanted to do nursing,my family and especially my father was so angry that he threw me out. No one from the family spoke to me for nearly ten years,in the 1960s India,girls from middle class families just did not go into such professions. I was as stubborn as my father was,I completed my training, aided and supported by friends and managing in the paltry stipend I got,passed my exams and it was only after I came to the UK and got married that my parents renewed contact,and that to because my husband went to see them!

So coming from such a society where nursing was considered the lowliest of low, I was very pleasantly surprised to experience the respect and affection shown by everyone here. As a student nurse in a London teaching hospital I got the best supervision and guidance. I remember walking into the ward the first day,and immediately being put at my ease by others. The discipline was hard, the ward sister was the person holding it all together, there were no managers and she ran a ward where the patient was put first above everything. If we had a few minutes to spare we went and talked to the patient, we never could or would congregate, discussing our social life!

No terminally ill patient was ever left alone or in pain, as a first year student,I spent a lot of time sitting in the side rooms,holding hands or just moping the brow of those who were near death, just to make them feel that they were not alone. An aspect of nursing which is now non-existent. We have hospices now ,so ward nurses do not get the experience of looking after the terminally ill.

Patients before they were “clients” had a soft spot for us, they will tell us about their lives, recognise us if we met them out in town and will turn up at Christmas with boxes of chocolates.

I have often said this and been told that “only old and stuck in the mud nurses” talk like this(I duly acknowledge being one),that whether we had a degree or a PHD never did matter to those under our care. When they are in pain and ill, all they want is our attention and time and an ability to take care of their needs in a professional and compassionate manner. They do not wish to be left alone when they are frightened and in pain,while we write high powered reports on computer , as we have a thesis to do.

The sad truth is that as nurses have become highly educated, the actual nursing has been passed on to those who have very little qualifications,like the health care assistants. They are hard working people but lack the insight and education we receive in our or what used to be a ward based, hands on training. These poor attendants come from a non medical/nursing background, without knowing the basic needs of illness and are expected to carry the burden of care , while we, the highly skilled and educated nurses do the paper work.

In my mind this a tragedy for the profession.

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