When I was doing my nursing training my friends and I used to debate this! We had a friend who was the most delightful and kind person ever but she wasn’t the brightest person we knew. We had another friend who was exceptionally smart but not as personable or as gregarious as my other friend. The not so bright one would do some dodgy things, harmless but dodgy and my other smart friend could never believe that everyone thought the world of my friend and didn’t either recognise the lack of “intelligence’ Or didn’t recognise that it was important. So what does make a good nurse?
I know whenever I have been a patient, I wanted a combination of confidence and compassion. I also wanted consistency. So three C’s; Confidence, but not cockiness, Compassion and Consistency. When a loved one was ill recently I watched the way a particular nurse interacted with both my loved one and her husband. My loved one commented that this particular nurse was intuitive, she foresaw what was needed and pre-empted this, clearly explaining what would be happening in the next few hours and what could be expected. During this hospital stay, my relative commented that the ward was really disorganised one day, I asked why and she said, my medications were not on time, they didn’t take my blood sugar, and the nurses didn’t know how to use a piece of equipment. I looked at the ward through someone else’s eyes. When you are a patient you notice the minutiae of life, when you are a nurse you always have to prioritise. As a nurse you want your staff to deliver safe, consistent, quality health care. You want them to assess the patient, interpret the results and act upon them. You want them to advocate on the patients behalf to the medical staff. You want them to educate the patient and the relatives. I often look back on my career and I wonder was there ever a singular act of kindness that someone remembers or was my care just jumbled in to everything that surrounded that patients admission. I know I have always tried to do the best for my patient and their relatives. Nurses often are in the background of what goes on in a hospital, but they are the ones alerting the physician to the abnormal lab results, the subtle change in a patient’s condition, the medications that need rewriting. There is a common saying often evident on social media,” Be kind to a nurse, they keep doctors from accidentally killing you !” Its hard to strike a balance in nursing that makes you everything to everybody, sometimes it’s when you are a patient or watching what goes on in hospitals through the eyes of a relative that these things strike home. Some of the most powerful memoirs are those written by Drs who have become patients, Dr Robert Klitzman wrote a book called “when Drs become Patients’ Dr Chris Obrien wrote a book called “ Never say Die” Chronicling his battle with Glioblastoma Multiform. He has a cancer treatment and research centre called “Lifehouse” at The Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney dedicated to him and his work as one of Australia’s leading head and neck surgeons. Taking some time to reflect on how we are perceived by others can be a very valuable aid to assist us in our careers.