Nurses play an integral role in every hospital trip and are a key support for patients and loved ones – but what don’t we know about the life of a nurse?
Nurses play an integral role in any healthcare system, providing critical support for patients and loved ones during their time of need. In fact, for many of us who have had to visit a hospital for either ourselves or a loved one, nurses are often those key members of staff that we talk and interact with the most.
From daily check-ins on vitals to simple questions on the status of our family members, they’re always there in the time of need. But how much do we really know about the day to day lives of our nurses, beyond our own interactions?
To reflect on International Nurses Day this May 12th, we spoke to Stuart Young, a Registered Nurse and Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust about why he made the choice to become a nurse and get a behind-the-curtain look at some of the things we may not know about the nursing profession.
Here are the top six facts that Stuart had to share from his own personal experience as a nurse:
Fact #1: Every day is different
There’s no such thing as a typical day in the nursing world. I can honestly say that, having been clinically nursing for 10 years, I’ve never been bored of work.
The only routine in the profession is the start of each shift, which begins with a handover where we look at the staffing level and skill mix to make sure that our resources are in the right place to provide safe, effective and proficient care to our patients. After the meeting, we move into clinical handovers, where we get an update on each individual and what is outstanding or the plan for them and, from there, the day can go in one of a hundred directions.
Some shifts, you’ll see a large variety of patients, ranging from broken bones to viruses and so on. On others, the shift can be taken over by a heart attack or car crash victim. One of the appeals of the profession is that you never know what’s coming next.
Fact #2: 10,000 steps is our base line
With the emergence of wearable technology and personal health trackers, 10,000 daily steps has become the goal for much of the population – but for a nurse that’s nothing! We’re constantly on the go, moving from patient to patient and multi-tasking to get things done, so we can often surpass 20,000 steps in one shift without even trying.
While we’re constantly moving around, it’s very important to keep our energy levels up because we’re always interacting with patients and families. It’s our duty to make sure we remain positive and make sure they feel as comfortable as possible while in the hospital.
Fact #3: Male nurses are still significantly outnumbered
In fact, less than 10% of all nurses are men. This can partly be attributed to the traditions of the nursing industry, and partly down to perceptions around gender roles. There remains a perception that, because I am a man, I cannot be a nurse, which can be difficult to overcome at times. And while society is making strides towards gender equality, the stereotype of nursing as a female occupation currently remains strong.
Fortunately, if you look at a country like the U.S., the percentage of men working as registered nurses has increased in the past 40 years by 6.9%. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, this is something I hope to see continue to grow in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
Fact #4: Technology is changing the game
First, healthcare is much more evidence based now than when I began my training. This is important because, compared to only a few decades ago, we’ve made strides in making sure there’s data behind the decisions we make, or support doctors in making, about our patients.
Second, technological advances in equipment are continuously improving the level of care that we are able to provide to our patients, and also increases access to care. With the introduction of mobile technology, we’re able to move equipment and offer care much more seamlessly than before, when we relied on heavy equipment.
At my Trust, we’re also going paperless, which will help to increase efficiency, reduce waste and improve the overall patient experience. This helps us ensure that the data we’re collecting gets in the right hands of the next person that they see in the hospital, whether it be this visit or a follow-up appointment. This ensures that anyone in the hospital system is getting an accurate representation of a patient’s diagnosis so that they can provide safe and efficient care.
Finally, social media also provides huge benefits within the nursing community – Twitter chats and Facebook groups are a great way to keep in contact with other nurses across the world and share our experiences.
Fact #5: We have a great poker face
It’s not difficult to imagine that an essential skill as a nurse is empathy. But dealing with patients and their loved ones can also be a challenge, as emotional moments can take a toll on nurses personally as well. That’s why it’s also important to be able to switch off at the end of a shift.
One of the most challenging aspects of our job is having to balance our emotions. Inherently, working in healthcare can be very emotional; after all, we’re seeing people during their most vulnerable moments. We often need to completely switch emotions when moving from a grieving family to a patient receiving good news, and it’s important to focus on each patient individually. Equally, we have to learn to deal with the emotional impact of our work when we leave the hospital. I also use mindfulness apps and audiobooks to unwind and escape.
Luckily, I feel that that there is also a great support network within the nursing community that we’re able to share tips and connect with one another – and that’s something I’m really grateful for.
Fact #6: It’s an unbelievably rewarding job
I decided to become a nurse after being hospitalized myself and seeing the immense care that the nurses offered me at a point when I really needed it. I remember, a male nurse held my hand and told me “don’t worry, we’re here to look after you” – and that phrase really stuck with me. Every day, I strive to be there for my patients and give them the comfort that I felt that day.
To me, the greatest reward of my job is watching someone leave the hospital healed having come in on a stretcher or even with a simple concern that they hoped we can help them with. Knowing that I played a part in that transformation – that’s a massive reward. And equally, being with someone at the end of their life and making sure that they are treated with dignity and respect is a huge privilege.
My advice to young people considering becoming a nurse would simply be “do it”. Nursing is a total joy and I would never want to walk away from this profession.’
Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.
Stuart Young has been a Registered Nurse in the NHS for the last ten years in Trauma, Orthopaedics and Emergency Medicine.
He is a strong advocate for the Influenza Vaccine and was NHS England’s Flu Fighter of the Year 2015. Stuart is passionate about equality and chairs the SWBH LGBT Staff Network. He is also an active member of the Royal College of Nursing.