Comment | Nursing will be strong and valued again
By Professor Julie Green, Head of School, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Keele University. This article first appeared in the Stoke Sentinel as a Personally Speaking column on February 17th, 2023.
Nursing is the largest, the most diverse, and one of the most respected of all the health care professions, with millions of registered nurses worldwide. It is both an art and a science - an all-graduate Registered Nurse profession which underpins enhanced patient safety and an essential role in society - specifically recognised during the Covid pandemic.
As a profession, nursing has ebbed and flowed in its attractiveness, popularity, and public support over the years, certainly since I qualified, and it is now facing very serious challenges. The UK has been disrupted by a series of strikes across multiple sectors in recent months - the first nursing strike in over 100 years, the largest strike in the history of Britain’s health service and the biggest walkout of ambulance staff in three decades. These are difficult and unsettling times for all in the profession, whether starting off or nearing retirement.
You will have heard, both in the press and on the local and national news, issues around shortages in nurse staffing, extensive ambulance waits, large numbers of nursing vacancies, and issues around nurse and other healthcare worker’s pay. These issues have led to the strikes we are witnessing, and we are once again seeing the ebb and flow of a career in nursing.
But despite the uncertainty and media coverage, my message is clear - nursing remains an amazing, rewarding career. The opportunities afforded by a career in nursing are truly remarkable and unlike very few other.
I became a nurse 37 years ago. I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and I trained at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary. Over those 37 years, I have worked in a wide variety of roles, including being a Staff Nurse on a Urology Ward, a High Dependency Unit, and an Intensive Care Unit. I thoroughly enjoyed every role.
In 1995, I had the opportunity to undertake a degree in Community Nursing and I qualified as a District Nurse. This is where my passion lay, and I undertook the role of District Nursing Sister for eight years in the Fenton and Blurton area. I absolutely loved the variety every day gave me. I loved to be out in my ‘patch’, fully understanding the pressures that were specific to that area, supporting my team and the community, and ensuring the best care for my caseload of patients. District nursing provided me with a magnificent opportunity to support patients in their location of choice, through a range of challenging health experiences, that often included the privilege of delivering end of life care. I truly had found my niche.
In 2003, I was fortunate to secure a role at Keele University as a Clinical Skills Lecturer, supporting student nurses and midwives – the next generation - whilst undertaking their training, to develop the skills required to be successful in clinical care delivery. It was a great role and gave me the opportunity to deliver practical sessions that every student enjoyed. More than 5,000 Keele-trained nurses and midwives work clinically in the NHS, with many of them staying locally in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire after they graduate, or working in hospitals in the wider West Midlands region. We are very proud of this fact and the positive impact we have upon society.
I have worked at Keele for 20 of my years as a nurse and I have undertaken nearly every role within the school and some across the faculty. Every role has enabled me to support our students, who are the future or nursing, and, hopefully, has provided an opportunity for me to instill in them the knowledge, experiences, and qualities that I have as a Registered Nurse.
Nursing is a unique career, and to be a nurse is seen as a 'calling' to many. Some people might still wonder what nursing involves. Let me tell you. To be part of a successful resuscitation attempt; to expedite a successful discharge home for a patient with complex needs; to support a comfortable and peaceful death; to enable someone with a learning disability to achieve their potential; to facilitate the resolution of mental health issues; to ensure a child’s health is appropriately assessed and managed; to guarantee that population health is the focus of local and regional funding models; to embed self-management and ensure patients can remain at home wherever possible, even at the end of their life, and, to do all of these things, with empathy, compassion, advanced skills, competency and kindness – this is truly nursing.
If you are considering applying to become a nurse, please look beyond what you see on TV and in the press. Nursing will be strong and valued again. These times will pass.
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