Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Don't Take It Personally

Last week I found myself engaged in a conversation with someone in which it emerged for the first time that I was a student nurse. I noticed immediately a look of surprise upon the person's face, and before I had chance to ponder the reasoning behind such a reaction, was met with a detailed account of numerous experiences of poor nursing care that she and various members of her family had encountered. I apologised (on behalf of the nursing profession!) for their collective experiences, and offered my sympathies in relation to the numerous emotive events that were effortlessly reeled off. I was genuinely remorseful for what had happened.

Most of you, I suspect, would have reacted in much the same way and left it at that. I however (rightly or wrongly) felt the need to go one step further and try and offer explanations to some of the events that I felt could perhaps be attributed to wider, less personal drivers. 'Staffing is a major issue' I found myself saying, 'I know from placements that quite often there just aren't enough staff'. I have no idea what if any comfort I was hoping to provide by offering this information, but thankfully she seemed not to be offended, and at least acknowledged my point regardless of its agenda.

A few days prior to this, I found myself in the midst of yet another debate regarding the perceived inadequacies of current nursing education on Twitter - a topic that you may be aware I am particularly passionate and vocal about! It had stemmed from a positive exchange between myself and another tweeter in which we highlighted the seemingly high calibre of our future nursing workforce, before being hijacked by a third party whose primary motivation appeared to be the blanket belittling of university-educated student nurses (see, vocal!).

I’ve encountered this argument so many times now that I’m literally bored by it - in fact it incurs an instantaneous eye roll pretty much without fail these days. Don’t get me wrong, I quite obviously like a good debate - it’s good to challenge and be challenged, but on this occasion I decided the safest option would be not to engage, and that’s what I did... for a whole twelve hours or so.

Preceding all of these incidents however, was yet another recent dispute that (for one reason or another) in this instance I did manage to avoid, again involving student nurses. This time though the focus was on those amongst us deemed to be ‘academic achievers’, and claims regarding their supposed attributable practical and compassionate downfalls. Reportedly and not surprisingly, it proved rather a contentious issue.

As with the ‘old-style-of-training-is-better-than-the-new’ argument, I’ve personally encountered this mindset out in practice - albeit only the once. Now on the whole I’m pretty happy with my general performance at university, but I consider myself to be neither superior, nor a showboater. As with most, if not all students at this particular juncture, I still have a lot to learn both in and out of practice. In addition, the issue of my compassion has never been brought into question, and has always been something that has been highlighted in an entirely positive manner.

Overall, it was a pretty disheartening experience, but ultimately I was able to disprove any preconceived ideas regarding my motivations and practice, although I felt the whole situation put me an automatic disadvantage right from the start. Thankfully the process of convincing them that I wasn't simply a textbook-quoting robot was a quick one, but I know that neither myself nor some members of the staff involved were ever completely comfortable with my perceived academic prowess.

These accounts illustrate just some of the persistent attitudes and obstacles that we as student nurses are up against before we even qualify. Add to this the hopeful expectations some hold for our ‘new generation’ in light of the prolific and often epic failings of our much-beloved healthcare system and profession (admittedly this is undoubtedly the exception as opposed to the rule), and it seems we have rather a lot to prove. Perhaps it’s good that we encounter such adversities now, before we register, and officially inherit all of this collective baggage. Perhaps it’s good training. Perhaps it will even stand us us in good stead. Who knows. I for one though plan on taking it one step at a time, perhaps I should start with learning not to take it all so personally first.

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