We’d All Be Worse Without a Nurse

(Huffington Post) I can’t imagine what a state we’d all be in without nurses. They give care unconditionally, regardless of past offences and won’t deviate from it until you’re better. Then they’ll start over again. They save lives as well – that nurse who’s only been qualified a few months might have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of your heart failing, and having rescued it still have 11 hours of their shift left before they can go home and tell someone, “I saved someone from dying today”.

There isn’t enough of myself to give out for me to be a nurse, but I know them as a group pretty well. My dear mum is one, and over the past year I’ve interviewed and photographed dozens of them for one reason or another. Every one of them has been busy and has met my big camera and notepad with a little discretion. Rightly so, most probably; I don’t think ‘handling the PR and communications department’ is part of the official syllabus yet.
The nurses willingly give themselves, though, for 12 hours a day on a regular basis, and they enjoy it. They genuinely enjoy it and not because they think it makes them angels, but because it’s a good thing to do.

The Mid Staffs report gave nursing a considerable shake, but those bad eggs are not representative of the nursing population, and certainly not of my mother. I speak with nurses every single day, and I want to share some of the things that I think are representative of them.

1. Nurses care. It’s a word used all the time that’s supposed to encompass compassion, dignity and empathy, and if its use was empty it would irk me, but it isn’t. Nurses care because whether the task is easy or pretty god awful, they never do it and then look over their shoulder for a ‘thank you’. They get the praise, for sure, and they love it, but they earn it.

2. Nurses are fun. I speak to people and ask them questions all the time, but when a confused patient shouts in my face, I don’t have a clue what to do. The nurses laugh at me. It’s not that they don’t care how confused this patient is, it’s the opposite – they know that treating the person is just as important as treating the illness, but what’s more, they know how to put that knowledge into practice. They use humour and kindness to soothe patients and to protect themselves, because if they didn’t, we’d have serious problems.

They bake, write books and poetry, run marathons and hike mountains to take what they’ve learnt to the world’s poorest families. They’re a hardcore lot and it goes way beyond comfortable shoes.

3. Nurses know stuff. After from my own managers, the people I’ve learnt the most from over the past year have been the nurses. When you work in a specialism for 25 years, you generally get pretty good at it. If you ever want to learn more about how complex radiotherapy works, don’t start with a textbook, speak to a nurse.

I would like to extend a thank you to every single nurse there is. I’d urge you to do the same.