By Angela Bagum, Specialist Clinical Work Focused Practitioner Add | Wellbeing and Interim Co-head of Nursing for Children, Young People and Families and Gender services
Nursing and the Workplace
The 12th of May is international Nurses Day, a celebrated experience of the presence of nursing worldwide and a celebration of Florence Nightingale’s Birth. In 1854 we saw Florence Nightingale set off to Turkey with a team of nurses caring for soldiers in the Crimean war. In 1855 Mary Seacole established the British Hotel, a convalescent home for soldiers in the Crimean war. In 1887 we saw the British nursing association created and in 1919, the first professional register for nurses.
Much has changed since then, with nursing roles created to suit the demographic health needs of our changing society. Importantly all nurses have a workplace and it’s for this reason that we in Add|Wellbeing are talking about the profession of nursing. Being a nurse myself, it has shaped my professional career and I have shaped it.
Of course there is no typical one size fits all nurse. The nurse bearing a uniform in a hospital setting is often the image that comes to mind, but we come in all range of differences from paediatric, general, mental health, and learning disability, as well as different nursing approaches combined with other trainings. Something that is uniform, and aligns us, is our UK code of conduct: a set of principles that governs our practice no matter where we may be located such as a hospital, the community (in someone’s home for instance) a prison, a police station, or a school. Nurses can ultimately be found in many places!
The common thread that runs through us is not just a duty of care or professionalism but our wish to offer compassion. Of course by virtue of some high profile incidents, we have heard horror stories of nursing care that has been utterly abusive, negligent and reckless. That cannot be glossed over. It’s also important to emphasise and acknowledge experiences of nursing that may fall short of our aspirations but are challenged in their practice due to systemic working issues that come to light and involve further investigation into wider organisational systems. For this reason, within our code of conduct there is a reminder about working in a safe proactive manner, taking on only what we feel comfortable in doing to ensure we are protecting the public. Of course this can be extremely difficult when the cultural demands and pressures of the workplace can result in burnout for the individual and team. Quite worryingly, 226 nurses in the pandemic from the 1st April 2020- 30th April 2021 committed suicide, as reported in the Nursing Times by the Laura Hyde foundation, a Mental charity committed to ensuring all medical and emergency services personnel have access to the best mental health support network available. Suicide amongst health professionals is not a new statistic but this does raise the question of support and compassion amongst and within the profession itself, along with workplace organisations.
But it’s because of this term compassion, that perhaps the public and media hold nursing to a high account – and so are more likely to expose falls from grace; and individually as nurses we are keen to uphold our own strong sense of identity, which means it can be hard to be seen as anything else in some cases.
It feels on this day, International Nurses Day, that what should be acknowledged is outward compassion towards the collective of nurses that often begin their career as a group within the National Health workforce. We know what it means to both work as a team and autonomously as registered practitioners. The functions upheld by the nursing profession are shaped by the political landscape and successive governments as to how funding for training has been apportioned and where nursing is positioned.
However these roles undertaken by nurses may not always be seen and appreciated but as we know in practice, they do make a difference to our society and our workplaces. The commitment that nurses bring in facing whatever a patient needs, operating in good faith. The ability that nurses have in knowing what it means to ‘be’ with our patients/clients/service users, and not to turn away or feel completely diminished by that work, is due to the interest we have in human beings and their bodies, including the wish to help and connect with our knowledge of the facts of life, from beginning to end.
Ford, M (2021) Charity Shares Concerning Data on Nurse Suicide Attempts During Covid-19 (online) Nursing Times available from: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/mental-health/charity-shares-concerning-data-on-nurse-suicide-attempts-during-covid-19-21-06-2021/ [accessed on: 06th May 2020].