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'I almost missed the opportunity to be a nurse'

There is plenty of literature on the subject of returning to the nursing floor, but being an advocate for clinical working is essential for a nursing leader.

There is plenty of literature on the subject of returning to the nursing floor, but being an advocate for clinical working is essential for a nursing leader, writes Elaine Strachan-Hall


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In my capacity as a director of nursing, I recently went to a ward to meet the ward sister. As I entered, the call bell was ringing and, as always, I stood back to observe what would happen. Like most wards, all the staff were with patients so no one was at the desk or available to assist. The sister emerged looking torn, and then relieved when I offered to answer the call bell.

The patient who had rung the bell was bed bound and looked embarrassed. ‘I'm sorry I’ve had an accident,’ she said. The sister offered to find someone to take over from me and, as I was anxious to start my chat with her, I hesitated and almost decided to miss this opportunity to be a nurse.

This is why we are here

Returning with warm water, wipes, towels and fresh linen, we brushed away the patient’s apologies with a quick explanation: ‘This is why we are here, and helping you feel clean and fresh is what I enjoy.’

‘I don’t think I’ll be here much longer,’ she whispered and that took us into a deeper conversation about her breathlessness and what mattered to her. The humbling sense of privilege stayed with me through the rest of my day’s meetings, calls and office work.

'I am a strong advocate for working clinically as an essential component of a nurse manager’s role'

Much is written about ‘return to the floor’ and I am a strong advocate for working clinically as an essential component of a nurse manager’s role. I have argued that it keeps me grounded, sets an example and is essential to assessing and improving quality.

However, another important reason is that I love it, I enjoy the humbling privilege and it puts me in touch with why I am a nurse, why I go to work and why I work in nursing management.

Working clinically as a nurse manager is my ‘why’, and I almost missed it.


About the author

Elaine Strachan-Hall is a registered nurse at South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group and a member of the Nursing Management editorial advisory board

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