Who would be a nurse?

Despite fears of lack of funding, unsafe staffing levels and media judgements, after 20 years, nursing is still the only vocation for me. In no other job is anyone exposed to the depth of life or the experience of witnessing real life evolving in front of your very eyes.

Our days vary. We may be a ray of sunshine, a hand to hold, a bearer of tissues or a shiner of a lamp. We are not brain surgeons, nor are we rocket scientists and yet our role is immeasurable, complex and without us, the NHS would not exist. Our work requires compassionate problem solving, knowledge, intelligence, common sense and a smile. We are all different, even within our specialist groups. We all evolve as nurses in a way that suits our personalities.

I never cease to feel humbled by a patient’s death, a thank you letter or a thoughtful cup of coffee from a colleague on a troublesome shift. In no other role would you experience the bravery I see on a regular basis, the love and devotion I witness between patient and carer, or the sheer stubbornness patients display to overcome an illness.

I might hear something that a patient has never told anyone else, they may never need to, or I may give them the confidence to talk to the person they really wanted to confide in. I am not ‘cold’ to patient/carer need – I hurt too if there is pain to be felt, and then help others who that pain affects. But nursing allows you to reflect and develop skills of containment, to heal quickly and to mentally ‘bandage’ those thoughts better for your next shift.

Nurses have bad days, but more often we have good days. With experience comes knowledge, expertise, mentorship and shining compassion. Within teamwork comes kinship, understanding, support (tissues), kindness, fun and lifelong friendships.

Currently, bad press, fear of the future and burnt-out nurses may be concerning our future generation of nurses. But if you were to ask me I would not hesitate to encourage any nursing student to finish their training and inject their enthusiasm into our vocation. Our profession depends on it.

About the author

Emma Vincent is a respiratory nurse specialist, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, and a member of the Primary Health Care editorial advisory board