International Nurses Day

This blog was written by Professor Tracey Williamson, reflecting on her experience of nursing.

Tuesday 12th May 2020 is International Nurses Day and birthday of Florence Nightingale. The day gives us opportunity to reflect on the valuable contribution of nurses training, qualifying and working here in the UK and globally.  The world will always need nurses and it amazes me how many varied roles, client groups and settings that the UK’s 300,000 plus nurses work in. Now working as a Professor of Family Care in Dementia, I have been a registered nurse since 1989 and worked across many older people settings in the NHS. I built on my former clinical career with an academic one undertaking research roles for the last fifteen years. Nursing isn’t always clinical and like many nurses I have developed my leadership skills into some non-clinical roles and went on to see research as a vehicle for practice development and enhancing patient and family experience.

Image of North Manchester General Hospital and a nursing badge

North Manchester General Hospital where I trained

I have long viewed nurses as the glue which holds patient and family care together. In my opinion, nurses are skilled designers and deliverers of care, operating in a vast range of situations and with patients/clients of varying situations and degrees of need for care and support. Nursing practice is underpinned by compassion but also considerable knowledge and expertise developed through years of study. As nurses we are often asked if compassion can be taught. I don’t think it can but if potential nurses have a leaning towards compassion, with good training, development and experience, it can be brought out and strengthened. This is just one of the aptitudes, skills and behaviours that good nurse training will surface in a nurse and the impact that nurse educators have is far reaching. From cradle to grave, every one of us will recall a nurse who has been there for us or our families and friends at a time of need and helped navigate a way through a difficult and often emotional situation.

Image showing the five 'C's of nursing
The 5 Cs of nursing

At this time of a pandemic, never has the essential contribution nurses make to the health of the nation been more visible to society, not delivered in isolation, but complemented by the skills of an array of allied health and social care co-workers and volunteers, across NHS and community settings. Back in my clinical days, I used to think a hard day was getting off a ward an hour late, skipping lunch and comfort breaks to get the essential care done to my standards, taking the off-duty roster home to write and surviving a shift on a snatched handful of Roses chocolates from a box on the nurses station provided by a grateful relative. These challenges pale into insignificance with what today’s nurses face, even before a pandemic, as resources are less in many instances yet demand for care is so much higher with burgeoning caseloads the norm. I only had to worry about needle-stick injuries, the occasional aggressive patient and rare major incident like a prison riot or Manchester bombing. I didn’t have to go to work every day wondering if this was the day I would contract a virus and take it home to my family. Hats off to nurses everywhere for all they do and thanks to those who train and develop nurses creating a profession we are truly proud of. Finally, if you truly value nurses, heed our profession’s key message at this time – STAY HOME.

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