When meeting someone for the first time, they often ask me- what I do for a career? – I go on to tell them I am a Nurse
It’s bizarre how often I get asked if the characters on television shows are true to the healthcare profession, these questions seem to be from a romanticised view that is very traditional
I try my best to explain what nurses do, but it seems many people perceive the role of nurses from two sources –
Social Media &
Television (shows such as Greys Anatomy, House, Ratched etc etc)
These two mediums often show nurses in traditional stereotypes and we are often shown as being dominated by the hierarchy of the medical profession. Also, the gender stereotypes of nurses only being female and performing repetitive routine tasks at a bedside still exist.
Having media playing a part in this has an impact on the image of nursing to the point where what is truly known of the role of a nurse becomes invisible. A specific example may be with the labelling of nurses as- angels, heroes, the doctor’s handmaiden, battle-axe or even as the sexy nurse.
To move away from these out-dated images of nurses, I was wondering – What would I tell someone who is interested in becoming a nurse?
- Nursing Is A Profession
There are two types of academic training to become qualified as a nurse-
- Enrolled Nurse, by completing a Diploma of Nursing
- Registered Nurse, by completing a Bachelor of Nursing
The nurses skills and knowledge are structured from scientific research and is involved clinically through Evidence Based practice. A nurses role is very diverse as it also involves caring that touches on emotional aspects of the patients journey.
Once completing formal education and becoming qualified as either an enrolled or registered nurse and after working clinically where experience is gained, there are always opportunities after a few years to enhance practice with further education and this may be completed through –
- Graduate certificates,
- Postgraduate nursing and midwifery studies or
(These courses are offered in many of the specialities in nursing and workplaces may offer scholarships).
There are opportunities to change trajectory by choosing a career path within the 5 areas (domains) of nursing which are – Management, Clinical, Education, Research or becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
2. Shift Work
Nurses at some point in their career work rostered shifts, healthcare as an industry is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Many nurses who work shift work are required to rotate between shifts, these shifts are usually divided by- Early shift, Arvo (afternoon) shift, Night shifts and some workplaces do offer 12 hour shifts too.
Rotating through the different shifts can give only short breaks between work periods for example early shift start times or late finishes, also picking up overtime can limit the time to physically and mentally recover from work and not enough rest breaks during a shift may cause fatigue.
With the accumulation of work schedules and then trying to balance everyday life, it is important to manage fatigue especially when at work by taking breaks. Also it is important to find what works for you by taking care of your diet, keeping hydrated and managing sleep routines- a nurse’s best friend is always ‘Nanna naps’ (aka Power naps).
Socialising and connecting with friends is enjoyable and at times your social life may be effected by working weekends but its important to keep your social life alive and to just ‘let your hair down’ sometimes.
We meet a wide variety of people from many backgrounds, but something small may be talking to a patient and making an emotional connection whether in a joyful or sad situation, also seeing the person past their medical condition and if possible even looking past the routine of the work day.
The essence of nursing is Compassion, it is something that can’t really be measured maybe it’s about the small things that meet the needs of a patient and the way it comes out is how nurses deliver care.
Every individual nurse coming into work contributes their part by coming together within a team and are involved by sharing their expertise and knowledge. The team can be quite dynamic and nursing cannot be done alone, often we draw on the collective experience from other nurses and the multi disciplinary team to make decisions.
Nurses have a lot of contact with patients and listening to their thoughts, feelings or concerns is important as to provide the patient a way to express themselves, in turn it empowers the person by involving them in their own health care decisions and making them the key team player.
5. Burn Out
Definition of Burn out is –
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- Reduced professional efficacy (WHO, 2020).
The challenges nurses experience are both physically and emotional, nurses as professionals face many realities of life as we look after patients who are ageing, people with ill health and we are confronted with death as well.
The many experiences can lead to burn out, your health and wellbeing is important and there are many organisations that nurses can reach out for support.
Remember: Always Be Kind To Yourself !!
As a nurse being understood allows for some recognition that has meaning of the role, not being understood does bring some challenges into the work day but being able to relate to others about our role may hold more value and purpose which is empowering.
The publics perception of nurses does not always match our professional image, but I’m sure that my perception of some careers have been moulded by what I have watched on TV or seen on social media for example- Lawyers may not all be portrayed as realistic in a show like -‘Suits’.
Hopefully with time the current narrative that is portrayed of our profession can change and nurses can be more visible for all the autonomous roles that we contribute in and that nursing is based on scientific research and not just seen in the light of as a romanticised hand-maiden.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse or curious about our job, ask someone you know what they actually do, I’m sure many nurses would love to tell you more about their experiences within nursing.
Support Resources –
- Nurse & Midwife Support- 1800 667 877 – www.nmsupport.org.au
– Students, Nurses & Midwifes can access this service