“Passion is the heart of nursing”

Written by: Clare Manley, Nurse RN BSc
and Craig Davidson RN BSc, Nurse

Published: 02/07/2020

In this opinion piece, newly qualified nurses Clare and Craig reflect on their commitment to preserving their passion for nursing and care.

How we define ourselves and how others view us can be telling. Until very recently, we identified as student nurses. A role which allowed us to grow and develop as individuals, professionals, and as part of a multidisciplinary team, involving patients, families and carers.

As student nurses, following the evidence-base, we are taught that treating the whole person, the whole family is the best way to nurse. Whether we are working with someone with a chronic or acute condition, a physical or mental health need, whatever background an individual comes from, we must understand their story and weave that understanding into the individual, person and family-centred care we offer.

Student nurses are often the ones who provide comfort to those in need and are at their side during both their darkest and happiest moments. We shadow expert registered nurses and multidisciplinary team members as student nurses. Doing so, we learn new skills and develop into professionals who use the latest evidence-based research to fulfill the requirements of our profession. However, our supernumerary status often affords us the chance to spend time with individuals and their loved ones, a chance to sit and talk. To carefully and compassionately, free from any judgement, piece together an individual’s story. To understand the core of them, their footprint on the world, the impact they have on those around them. We get to see the importance of these connections, to appreciate just how precious they are. What a privilege.

We all bring with us our own life stories, our own experiences to our nursing role. Aged 30, Craig was an inpatient on a mental health unit. Far away from home, his family and support networks. He remembers those who took the time to spend time with him, who listened. And most importantly, remembered the things he said. But he also remembers those who did not. And the lack of support his family received, especially his mum, his next of kin. He carried that experience throughout his nurse education. Now, he takes it with him into his new nursing role. Clare is a mother of four, two with additional needs. She experienced professionals who dismissed her as neurotic, as an incompetent parent when she raised concerns. But she remembers the people who listened, who did not judge. Those who put the tick lists and graphs down and instead sat down beside her and listened. Those who said, “I’m here. I’ll walk beside you and your child until we figure this out, together.”

So, now we both find ourselves with a new name to define us: registered nurse. It is one that means so much to each of us, as it does to all in our profession. We have both been on such a journey to get here. We are both ambitious and want to progress and to make a difference. Yet we are acutely aware that there is a balance to be reached between that ambition and the caring principles we have learned.

We are both lucky to have had fantastic role models: mentors; people at the top of our profession, who make decisions and manage large groups of people, budgets and systems; people we have met through our work at the Royal College of Nursing (this link will take you away from our website). Those who are the most inspiring are those who never forget that people are at the core of nursing.

We want to retain the passion for the individual, their families and carers. We never want to forget the lessons we learned as students. We want to remember how we can bring families and carers along on a journey. That way, together, we can work to deliver the best care to every individual, no matter what their story.

We both fight for our health systems, for equity and rights for nurses, so that we do not buckle under the pressure. So that we never have to choose between getting the job done and getting the job done with care and compassion. We believe in our NHS and know that we need to invest so much more into services. This drive has inspired our work in taking forward the ‘RCN Newly Qualified Nurses’ project (this link will take you away from our website). And while we do this for our colleagues, our friends, and our families, ultimately, we do this to improve the care we can offer to those individuals we work with and care for and for their families, carers and loved ones.

It is why our podcast is entitled “Retaining the Passion.” Because for us, passion is the heart of nursing. It is the people we care for, their uniqueness, their stories, that make the role we do perhaps the most privileged job anybody in this world can do.

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