“Nursing on top again in latest poll…”
If you ever see the results of those polls- you know the ones that discuss what the most trustworthy profession are, you’ll read that nurses often come out on top, if not very close to…
Why did I choose nursing?
I became a nurse for the most cliché (yet, true) of reasons – I enjoy helping people. Generosity is in my nature, probably in my genes – my grandmother and aunty are both nurses as is my brother.
Originally, I wanted to be a vet. I have always loved animals and felt drawn to working with them… until I really explored the ins-and-outs of veterinary science. I didn’t enjoy the idea of surgery, or of working with larger animals… seeing images of vets with their hand up a cows butt turned me off, to be honest. Also, the fact that when I was finishing high school it had the highest TER requirement. Vet nursing was the next logical step for me and my mum actually convinced me to look into nursing of the human variety. I attended the open day for my uni and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve officially been nursing for 11 years, having some time off here and there for my two babies. With most of my experience in emergency.
So why are we trusted?
I was asked recently in an interview “Why do you think nurses are considered so trustworthy?”
Initially, I felt a bit stumped by the question… ‘I dunno, because we would wipe your ass for you?’ sprang to mind.. But really, there is so much more to being a nurse than ass-wiping (although, that’s a big part 🤣)
In fact- there is a complex and multifaceted answer to this question that I hope I can even give it some justice in this short blog.
When you come through the doors of your emergency department or ward for admission, the first point of contact is generally with a nurse…
In ED you explain your presenting complaint to a triage nurse who ‘sifts and sorts’ the patients and their issues to ensure people are seen in order of urgency.
You’re being probed from the get-go, the nurse needs to get to the bottom of your problem(s) in a critically short window of time, so no questions are considered off limits.
It’s understandably confronting for some people – being asked sometimes intimate and personal questions by a stranger.
Throughout your stay in hospital, however long or short – you will always have a nurse returning to your bedside. Specialists will come and go, as will other allied health but you know for sure, that you’ll consistently see your nurses’ returning to see you are different points in their shift. We are the go-betweens. Liaising with the doctors, the physios and all other specialties and the patient.
We see patients at their ‘worst’.
As a nurse, we see patients at their most vulnerable, their most unwell, their most scared. We see their scars, we hear their stories and we read the myriad of emotions of their faces : joy, elation, sadness, overwhelm, exhaustion, fear, anger, anguish…
It’s a rare thing for a stranger to let themselves be completely vulnerable in front of another stranger, to feel exposed, unfiltered. For this reason nursing is rather a privilege, to be allowed to witness people at their most raw, their most exposed (sometimes quite literally).
We known more about you than most..
Our patients invite us into their innermost circle, sharing details they sometimes haven’t even shared with other people residing in that bracket of closeness.
I feel it’s a privilege because we ask for patients to unreservedly share their story, to be exposed, be vulnerable, without having to do the same in return. If knowledge is power, we as nurses know an awful lot about our patients when they usually don’t know any more about us than our names.
It’s a privilege because we become the observers and support network in the defining moments of people’s lives, in those times of joy, in crisis and sometimes in dying and in death.
We’re there when shit gets real.
I remember looking after a patient who was elderly and seriously unwell. There wasn’t a lot left in the medical repertoire that would greatly change her outcome and so it was decided, with the patient and her family that they would continue to treat what they could and otherwise keep her comfortable.
Her husband of 60 years was by her side, frail himself. The other family members went away to make phone calls and he wished to stay by her side. Wheelchair bound, he asked me in a very soft and gentle voice ‘Can I kiss her?’
I helped this man out of his wheelchair and watched him lean over his wife, share some words with her and then give her the kiss that he so wanted.
I stood behind him (concerned he would fall) and I remember thinking, ‘holy shit – this is one of life’s hypotheticals, especially a couple that had been together so long– what will happen when one of us dies?’
This moment, although leaving me with glassy eyes and a heavy heart, was life in all its glory. How sacred and special that we, as nurses get to be a part of that?
“This moment…was life in all its glory…”
We won’t exploit our patients’ vulnerability
And I guess one of the greatest reasons we are trusted is not because of what we do with/to/for our patients but because then we leave their room, wash our hands and move onto the next task often without stopping to think about the enormity of what we witness.
We don’t conjure ideas to exploit the vulnerability of our patients, but rather explore ways in which we can better help them.
We acknowledge our patients troubles, worries and ultimately accept them for who they are. At best, we make them feel comfortable, free from judgement and allow the space to be honest and open about themselves and their lives.
So, yes, nurses are trustworthy because they will help you with all that stuff when you can’t do it yourself (ass wiping) but recognize that even though the tasks can be menial, they represent so much more to our patients and that’s where the trust is borne.