What on earth? 

I have been a registered nurse since December 1982. I remember getting the results to my state finals and I was looking forward to getting the chance to manage patient care as a staff nurse. It was a tough three years, nurse training did not involve any education or theoretical learning but a rite of passage that involved acquisition of clincial skills, obedience and partial insight into illness and therapeutic interventions. It was hit and miss learning and most ward sisters wanted you out of sight and out of mind. I can list on one hand  meaningful and nurturing placements in my three years. I was bullied and belittled on a regular basis, it was about survival and making it to the end of the shift without pissing off anyone. Back then I was bloody minded and determined, despite the misery I wanted to qualify as a nurse, my friend Mandy was braver, she left and went to university. I now wish I had left when I was 20 and never qualified. I find the profession snarling at others,, not very grown up about higher education and still unable to nurture talent and intelligence. 

I loved doing the nursing but I found it increasingly difficult to be a nurse, still do and that is why I was distressed as an educator and then a senior manager. I think I might prefer to work in the margins, the sidelines, the edgelands of professional practice. I don’t want to be pigeonholed by my qualifications, it seems to be limiting and limited in scope. Writing this I think I might be finding the answers to a lot of my recent dilemmas. I am cross about changes in professional practice and I am astonished at the political correctness that seems to prevent scholars asking critical questions from our leaders. I am an outsider, don’t belong anywhere and I can ask questions… We need more independent and critical thinking and we need our leaders to be called to account for decision making that might impact on patient care…

One of my frustrations  in nurse education was the uphill battle about research and evidence based practice. Only a few lecturers could deliver the modules and there was much ambivalence and lack of engagement with the notion of being research literate and even less committment to being able to undertake research. Colleagues doing research were talked about as being elitist and thinking they were cleverer than others. Petty jealousies surfaced rather than embracing new thinking and  new knowledge. 

We’re a long way off adulthood in the nursing profession and I wonder how we can move forward and look after the next generation of nursing professionals. We need to ensure we have a robust and sustainable theoretical  base and a deep committment to continuing professional development. My observations are that we are a long way off this and we need to agitate for change as soon as possible. Stasis and a head in the sand approach  are not options but that is what I experience.. Registered nurses may be a footnote in history if we don’t act soon to underpin our work with constructive arguments, passive aggressive resistance is not getting us anywhere and it’s horrible to manage..I know I was at the receiving end of that kind of behaviour. It erodes self confidence and makes you question the motivation of so called “caring” professionals. 

Courage is lacking and we need to collaborate and be more critical in our discussions. We mustn’t accept the status quo and not be scared of being clever… 


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