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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Inspiring nurses on International Nurses Day

Published: 12 May 2017
Dr. Jane Ball
Dr. Jane Ball photo

Dr Jane Ball celebrates International Nurses Day by reflecting on what inspired her to enter the profession. Jane, Principle Research Fellow, has recently gained her doctorate after four years of study at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. Jane successfully defended her thesis on "Nursing staffing, care left undone and patient mortality in actute hospitals".

“Why nursing?”                              

Not a long ago, I heard two people describe how their lives had been turned upside down by life-threatening illness. Their accounts offer pause for thought on this International Nurses Day.  

John, a 33 year old chef, had been feeling unwell for a few days. Within hours he went from feeling a bit off colour to being alarmingly unwell; he lost his sight in both eyes, turned a strange colour, and after his wife consulted with the GP, was sent by ambulance to hospital. The bacterial infection that had started as a nasty cold had gone into his blood stream. His body was losing the battle and shutting down.

Lauren, a promising dance student, developed bilateral pneumonia in her teens, which led to her spending time in hospital. Some months later she resumed her studies and got straight A’s. She was told with grades like those she could do anything she wanted.

Both John and Lauren described how the care they had received from nurses had affected them. In their darkest hour, when everything they thought they knew about themselves, their bodies, their futures was suddenly hanging in the balance,  it was the skilled, intelligent and kind care of nurses that got them through – both the physical and emotional turmoil of ill-health.  

It had a profound effect on them both.  

John left hospital with an insight into what nursing was; the power it has to not just save lives but to make the process of recovery (or adjustment) more bearable. He was impressed by the way nurses fused professionalism and compassion to engender trust in patients. Situations that are abnormal to us as individuals in our everyday lives – like needing to go to the toilet whilst remaining in bed – can be handled with the same professionalism and care that is used to undertake a complex clinical intervention, or to manage a difficult conversation about living with an uncertain prognosis.

He and Lauren saw the value of nursing clearly, in a way that perhaps many of us have either never seen or have lost sight of. They had first-hand experience of the immense value of nursing care.

John left with a determination – against the odds and despite it requiring family sacrifices – to take a second degree. To give back something of what he had benefitted from - to become a nurse.

Lauren also decided to embark on a career in healthcare. With straight A’s she was advised to  consider a career in medicine. ‘Why would I want to do medicine if I don’t want to be a doctor? ‘she responded. ‘I want to be a nurse’. She too, chose to apply for a nursing degree.

The value these two people place on nursing, and their ability to communicate that so well inspired me. Nurses – in whatever role we practice – need to follow their lead. To let the regard we have for our profession, and the value we know patients and team members place on it, to be evident from what we say and do. To value our own contributions – to one person’s life, to a research study, to teaching others how to save a life - and stand up and make those contributions known to others.

Not everyone has either the opportunity or the nerves to stand on a conference stage. And not everyone wants to spend Sunday morning writing a blog. But we know that nursing matters and is a critically important element of healthcare. We know it’s a privilege to be given the chance to do it, to have been educated to become a registered nurse, and to be entrusted with the responsibilities we hold. We can ask others to value nursing more. Or this Nurses day, we can do it ourselves. Make who we are and what we do visible. Be proud to be a nurse, and, like John and Lauren, let that pride shine.   

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