What are the most valuable qualities of being a nurse? Let’s find out.
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On to the blog.
For those of you who have been following my blog you know that I draw upon lived experience as well as reading and researching around health and wellbeing topics of interest. For those of you who have also been following my blogs from the beginning of the year, you will know that I started with a little blog entitled “Fit for Nearly (40)” in which I charted my physical fitness path toward losing weight as I approached my 40th birthday. I had fun and learnt alot from the blog, I lost weight, and of course, I turned 40. I was then left scratching my head wondering what to do with the blog moving forward. As my journey of discovery evolved, so too did the the nature of the blog. I found that over time it began to move from an inward looking venture to a more outward looking approach in which I was looking at how to support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of others.
And in a strange kind of way I find that I have come round a bit full circle.
Way way back in 2005 I was working in a gym as a Fitness Instructor / Fitness Manager. I was training with clients helping them to lose weight. Over time I found that I received referrals from the GPs to help mild to moderately depressed persons with exercise programs to help them manage their symptoms (supported of course also with medication). I found that apart from having them walk or pedal for 20 minutes at an ambling pace, I think that they appreciated more the fact that I was just listening to them and acknowledging them, something which I understand now is so valuable and important if you are managing a mental illness: to be listened to and acknowledged.
I found that just with listening to my clients, I discovered them to remain engaged and motivated. At my time there I saw physical fitness instructors behave like drill sergeants barking orders at their clients and making them to do elaborate exercises. Whilst that it is not bad, all of the time, I think it needs to be measured down with some humanity. At times I did spinning classes and charged the room getting my clients all pumped and working up a sweat, but I wasn’t like that all of the time. Especially to my dear older client who just wanted to amble on a treadmill for 20 minutes telling me about her day.
Working with these clients inspired me to explore my Psychology training, and I commenced Mental Health training in 2011.
In 2013 I qualified and began to work as a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMHN) in a psychiatric inpatient setting. I was faced very quickly with quite challenging patients, with challenging mental illnesses, drug and alcohol issues, and personality disorders. During that time we were faced with a quite disruptive and challenging patient with a personality disorder. I based my Masters research on this patient, research which I conducted between 2015 and 2016. I am very proud of that body of work, the outcomes of which I shared with my colleagues to help and support them to improve their engagements with patients with challenging personality disorders. As the years went on in my current job, I found myself move up to a Band 6, where I was in charge of clinical developments and was involved in patient assessments and referrals. I learnt a lot about myself and about others, particularly what I feel are the most important things about nursing and what could be suggested are the values of nursing. And why am I saying this now? Well I find myself coming to the end of one nursing job and I shall be starting a new nursing job elsewhere in a few weeks, and I guess this is as time as any to reflect.
What are the most valuable qualities of being a nurse?
Is it paperwork? Is it sitting behind a desk all day doing paperwork and audits and forms and attending meetings and doing assessments? Sure, those things are part of nursing and will always be there. But if you had to take a moment to pause and really think about it, what would you say are the most important things about nursing?
I will tell you.
And the answer was in front of me several years ago. The answer was a lady who was depressed who found solace in walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes whilst I listened to them without judgement or without criticism. Little did I know, but back then I was using active listening, something which is promoted a lot now in businesses and nursing.
Listening and acknowledging what the person says is such a valuable and important thing to do as a nurse, and even as a person. We sometimes run around so lost in our own world that we lose sight of the world around us, about the people and their struggles around us. To have a moment where you are listening is a moment that can change another person’s life for the better.
Another important value is to be present.
To be in the present…that is something which I am still working on. It is difficult, but it is something we can all do.
When I have spoken to my patients, I have tried to exercise an ability to be here, right now, in the present, not thinking about my past, their past, my future, their future, or what I want from the conversation. It is so difficult these days, especially if you are a nurse, be it in the mental health or adult physical health nursing, as admittedly a large part of our job is to act as investigators to ask questions, to steer a conversation and to land at answers which explain an illness, behaviour and or diagnosis.
What is also so valuable is if we can just be present from time to time. A patient may stop us and say hello. Instead of acknowledging a nod and a “Oh hello Mr Smith, can’t talk right now, got work to do”, try next time to stop and actually ACKNOWLEDGE.
A large part of nurturing a patient back to physical and mental health is to acknowledge them. Show them you are present. Show them that you are there for them and that you have time for them. Show them that you care. If you want to improve your level of engagement and rapport, stop and talk and listen. This can also be used in your everyday life. If a colleague or loved one calls upon your attention, if you stop and talk and listen, you are doing incredible work toward developing a stronger and more meaningful rapport.
And now as I find myself between ending one job where I have worked many years and have met some good nurses and have learnt a lot about myself in the process, I find myself reminding myself, and perhaps also dispensing advice toward nurse students and aspiring nurses, that some of the greatest values of nursing don’t come from how many reports you produce, they come from the connections that you make to the patients in your care.
It will be sad to say goodbye to the good nurses who I have worked with and got to know, but it will also be exciting to consider the new and exciting opportunities which may present in the next chapter of my nursing career. And as I close one door and open another, it feels like an opportunity to reflect and to share some of the values which I hold so dear.
If we can practice and embody these values as humans: imagine how incredible we could make things 😊.
In summary, being a better person and a good nurse is about listening, acknowledging and being present. Show that you are there to listen, without judgement and without prejudice. Show that you are acknowledging what the other person has to say. And be present. Be here, right here right now. If you can do that….well then I think you will do just fine 😊.
I hope you have found the blog of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.
And remember: love yourself.
A bit about the author:
I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders.
Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.
I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders.
In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.
In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.
In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars.