What do you do?
Do you love it?
Are you good at it?
Are you proud of it?
I am a nurse.
Most people reading this have no idea what that actually means. A vague image will flicker through your head, involving a white tunic or someone in scrubs. Maybe a stethoscope. Or a needle. Maybe you have a family member who is a nurse, or you have been sick. I’m sure very few of you non nursing readers would actually have a clue about the intricacies around the job I perform. You would know there is the shift work, and maybe something to do with bedpans and body fluids.
I am a registered nurse.
That means I pay to register to practice my profession.
I have legislation surrounding what I do, how I do it, where I do it and with what purpose.
I have 3 years at Uni as an undergraduate. It was a double degree, meaning I have a degree in science and a degree in nursing.
I have a Masters degree in Advanced Practice, specialising in Emergency Nursing. That included research, learning how to perform research, but more importantly, how to analyse and interpret research findings in a meaningful way. It included teaching, learning how to teach individuals what they need to learn, be it other nurses, medical students or patients.
I have other qualifications as well. I teach medical students skills and techniques. I teach nurses and nursing students different topics.
And I haven’t finished studying. I have to perform a minimum amount of clinical professional development every year to maintain my registration as well as fulfil other requirements that allow me to practice.
As well as that, almost any career progression will require more study, whether doctorates, degrees or diplomas.
I have family and friends who easily out earn me, with no tertiary education and not quite the position of responsibility that I hold. And that includes my penalty rates for shift work.
There is the science and technology that drives what I do. A lot of science and technology.
From electronic documentation and software that we use to write notes and referrals through to knowing the intricacies of the machine that keeps you breathing. Every machine, be it a BP cuff or a ventilator, is different. Every hospital has a different brand machine.
A dressing isn’t a dressing. They each have a different use and are better used in one way, not another.
Which chemical, mixed and delivered in which particular way, in what dose is needed for you, the individual with your own unique physiology, responses and needs?
Remembering the formula that allows me to get the doses right for adults, kids, babies.
Remembering the algorithms that mean the difference between life and death.
Knowing what the distinct sound is of tightening airways, what your blood count, vital signs, ECG trace is meant to look like.
Knowing the red flags for any number of conditions that might kill you, and deciding if what I am seeing or hearing fits that.
This is some of the science and technology that is part of my job.
Then there is the art. The craft of nursing.
Being able to break down the mumbo jumbo so you can understand and ‘own’ your condition.
The look of a patient that isn’t quite right.
The ‘just right’ tension on that bandage.
Finding and then that vein for blood taking, when you haven’t eaten or drank all day, have a low BP and are scared of needles.
Gaining the trust of the child before I even speak a word to them.
Knowing when it’s safe to let you go home, and when my gut is telling me that it isn’t.
Knowing when the story isn’t matching the presenting problem and whether that is sinister or just amusing.
You will give me a vague description of symptoms, which is expected because you are not a clinician, and the fact that you will forget something or be unable to tell us something of vital importance to your health is something I plan for.
Deciphering your concerns after you have Googled it, and spoken to your neighbour and seen it on Oprah.
Yet I will to piece it together, apply a protocol or best practice guideline, include a element of the unexpected, operate within an arbitrarily applied timeline, with limited resources and be technically proficient and polite, and pleasant and empathetic whilst getting the information I need from you.
Which you have every right to refuse for whatever reason you wish.
I will be blamed if there is something you didn’t know. I will be blamed if you make a poor choice for your health.
I will be judged not on how technically proficient or knowledgable I am, but on how nice and caring I am perceived to be.
I am devalued by the public, family and friends as a health care provider, referred to as ‘just a nurse.’ But I am the first person called by acquaintances, friends and family for a telephone, or Facebook consult out of hours.
I am asked why I didn’t just become a doctor, when I am at the top of my game as a holistic health care professional. This question devalues my profession and how we as a profession develop and deliver healthcare.
I agonise over every decision I make. Even the small ones. I agonise over every question I am asked, even the ones over a coffee or glass of wine.
I LOVE what I do. It’s a skill, a craft and an art form. Truly it is. There is more to it than you can imagine. The skills that I use are often invisible. They are not always truly tangible. I can assess a person from a distance, before they’ve said a word.
I am good at it. I have specialised into a field I love, and it turns me on.
And I am damn proud of my job, what I do, how I do it and of my profession.
I am a public servant. I work for the state government with whatever resources they allow me to perform my job. I work in a team of professionals who come to work each day to do something that matters. Who share unimaginable burdens and other people’s troubles and tragedies and, yes, their triumphs.
I am a Nurse.
I love it.
I’m good at it and I’m very proud of my profession and what I do each and every day.
What about you? What is your answer to those four questions?