The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust


How will I shape the year of the nurse 2020?

7 February 2020

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This is my first blog and having the question of how I would shape the year of the nurse for “nursebloggers 2020 challenge”, started me reflecting on how nursing has shaped me, what nursing means to me and how I can celebrate the profession this year. This blog has given me the platform to say what I believe we need to do and that is transform perceptions of the profession and create a new narrative.

I registered as a nurse in 1998 and could never have imagined the journey of self-discovery and self-development that I would go on. I went into the profession to help others, I never envisaged how much being a nurse would have helped me to grow as a person and the opportunities it would offer me.

There have been times I have doubted my decision to choose the profession and continue working as a nurse. I have looked back to when I made that choice as a 15 year old and my desire to connect with people. I chose nursing wanting to understand, connect and support others at their most vulnerable times. When I saw nurses “handing over” at the foot of my dad’s hospital bed, I was struck by their understanding of his psychological, social and emotional needs, as well as his physical needs as he recovered from major life changing surgery to remove cancer from his oesophagus.

Holistically working with patients, families and colleagues has been hugely enjoyable in my varied nursing career. I’ve met fascinating people from every walk of life imaginable. I have been challenged, shocked, elated, concerned, touched, warmed, joyous, sad, every range of emotion experienced, whilst balancing busy caseloads, resources, risks, technical and complex decisions to make.

At times I’ve felt frustration and dismay believing that I had to limit the part of the job I loved most (listening, connecting and understanding the human in front of me) to ‘get the job done’ or because I perceived I was working in less than ideal circumstances. What I have learned through NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming on a course run by the NHS Leadership Academy and the fabulous Chris Grimsley-who offers lots of free bite sized learning here 20-80 training ) is that these perceptions were the result of the lens I was looking through. When I focused on what wasn’t right, that was what I saw. My pursuit of perfection actually limited my ability to see what was right in front of me. That is…..

Whatever the circumstances, it is always possible to make a connection and show up with the intention to be with, seek to understand others and communicate compassionately.

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I know from my own experiences as a patient, that this is one of the ways nurses contribute to our journeys in life. I will never forget the Staff Nurse in Worthing Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in 2002 who reached out to me after I had been crying for hours. I was a patient in the ICU after lengthy and complicated pelvic surgery for Endometriosis. I was distraught. She was managing my blood pressure, giving me a blood transfusion, monitoring the delicate balance of oxygen, sodium and potassium in my body, the post-operative bleeding, she was using her highly technical skills to keep me stable and at the same time took just a few minutes to hold my hand, look into my eyes and see the ‘whole me’. She said “I think you are the kind of person who likes to be in control (I am!), this must be so hard for you” (It was). That empathic connection , in that moment, enabled me to acknowledge the awful situation I was in. She did not try to fix me, she was simply there for me. I was then able to be with my suffering and gradually move forward , knowing that someone had ‘seen’ and ‘understood me’. This was the best nursing care that I could have received in that moment. I will never forget her and how she made me feel. This holistic approach to those we care for is what makes nursing such a special role.

These seemingly ‘small’ things make the biggest impact.

Noticing these and giving ourselves acknowledgement is so important. I wrote to the nurse in Worthing back in 2002, I wanted her to know what a huge difference that very short but skilled interaction made to me.

So how will I shape nursing this year?

I have been guilty of focusing on what isn’t right, such as low staffing levels and how this impacts on us as care givers and on our patients. What I have learned through NLP is that when we shift the focus on to what we can do and what we do contribute to, we are transformed. The power of acknowledging and celebrating our brilliance, our skill, our compassion is what we need to talk about so we can allow this narrative to be heard. I am so proud of my choice to be a nurse. We do need to increase our staffing levels. By speaking about our value I believe we can shine and attract more brilliance into our profession.

I am honoured to be in the role of Head of Nursing Professional Development, this year, writing and launching the Leeds Excellence in Practice Programme, which will celebrate and acknowledge 200 nursing and midwifery colleagues contributions to patient care through their competence and specialist skills. This year is our year to transform perceptions of our profession, to be valued, to value ourselves and be proud.

I also intend to notice and acknowledge one great thing that a colleague or I have done each day. Can you do this? See what happens to you when you shift your focus to acknowledge the positive, even the seemingly tiniest contribution that you have made each shift or each day.