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Nurses Day

What is Nurses Day?

International Nurses Day is celebrated on the birthday of the first ever nurse, Florence Nightingale, who formalised nursing training and saved millions of lives by inspiring others to become nurses. Once upon a time I was proud to be called a nurse, but sadly, I can’t say that anymore.

The first woman to make nursing official!
The first woman to make nursing official!

I was 5 years old when I got my first nurses outfit and from that day, all I ever wanted to be, was a nurse.

My 5 year old self
My 5 year old self

During my school holidays when I was 16, I did a short two week stint at the then new Johannesburg Hospital (now Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital), and as they say that was the beginning of the end.

This is the certificate the hospital gave me. Thanks for keeping it safe Mom.
This is the certificate the hospital gave me. Thanks for keeping it safe Mom.

Against some of my family’s wishes, and the advice of a school guidance counsellor, I enrolled for nursing and was accepted.  My mother, thankfully, had taken me for an aptitude test which showed that I was suited for engineering or the medical field.

I did not do nursing out of a need to help people nor did I do nursing for any altruistic reasons.  In fact, to this day, if you ask me why I studied nursing I could not tell you. I just knew that this was what I wanted to do.

My children will tell you I am not the most sympathetic of people.  I am more a ‘get over yourself’ kind of person.

Over the years my field of interest in nursing has changed. I worked for a GP for many years, both in his practice and as a company nurse at different sites.

I then became a First Aid Instructor and Basic Life Support instructor under the American Heart Association and South African Resuscitation Council.  After that I became a Basic Life Support Medic (BAA/BLS), eventually doing the Intermediate Life Support Medic (AEA/ILS). I loved the adrenaline rush that came from responding to emergencies.

I then moved on and became a clinical facilitator at a private Nursing School for 5 years; this is a practical tutor for nursing students.

I moved back to actual nursing when I took a job in a busy emergency department.

I now work as a practice nurse again, assisting in operations, working with patients and doing office work.

Yes, as a nurse, or even a medic, there is a certain amount of ego stroking; how can you not feel great about the fact that there are people out there whose lives you have saved or even changed?

In the last 3 years disillusionment in nursing has really hit me deeply. There are a number of reasons for this.

Nursing is no longer a calling, but a job. As an Enrolled Nurse or a Registered Nurse, you are pretty much guaranteed a job.  Even as an auxiliary nurse there are plenty of jobs available.

Nurses seem to care more about themselves than they do about the patient.  Remember, I am not a sympathetic or altruistic nurse.   I, however, do believe that ensuring my patient’s basic needs have been met before I go to lunch or go off duty is important. Nurses also often appear to no longer be able to accurately record vital data (pulse, breathing rate and temperature).

There is no more curiosity. The majority of nurses don’t seem interested in how the patient came to be in their department. The patient is booked for a particular procedure and that is the end of the story. The only field in which this does not totally apply, is psychiatric nursing.  I have heard that the nurses do not even begin to ask a doctor, who has given strange orders, why he has ordered a particular treatment; imagine how much you could learn!

It has become a business. To cut costs and make a profit (which I have nothing against) large hospitals have reduced the number of qualified staff per patient ratio.  This has led to the fact that nurses no longer have the time to sit and give patient’s the attention they need, whether it is to take a detailed history and not just the basics as found on the admission document, or to find out how the patient came to even see the doctor.  We no longer have time to speak to the patients and to connect with them. How much are we, as nurses, missing?

Recently, listening to a Registered Nurse tell a patient “I am not a nurse, I am a sister”, really upset me.  Are we not all nurses, despite our rank?

It has also become apparent that younger nurses actually have no respect for their profession and we can, therefore, no longer expect the public to respect us.

I am glad we do not have to wear those ridiculous germ harbouring caps and that pants have been allowed as they are definitely more practical.  I do miss my cape though, that feeling of being a ‘Caped Super Hero’, whenever I put it on.

This is similar to what I wore as a student nurse, although I had to black stockings and black shoes
This is similar to what I wore as a student nurse, although I had to black stockings and black shoes on qualified nurses wore white.

It seems though, that basic hygiene and infection control, has fallen by the wayside with nurses ignoring the fact that bacteria can grow under their gel/tips and nail polish, or that the spaces where their diamonds are held in their rings are great environments for germs. Nurses chewing gum, looking like cows chewing the cud, wearing short, tight skirts, tight blouses with gaping button holes, chipped black, or purple, or even green nail polish, are not acceptable attire when trying to gain the confidence of patients and their loved ones.

What happened to patient safety? Long nails and diamond encrusted rings scratch patients, false eyelashes have also been known to fall into open wounds!  Do we no longer care?

Maybe I am old fashioned but to me a professional nurse (from care worker to Matron)is one with short manicured, polish free nails, a plain wedding band with no ridges to injure patients, neat hair and a little make up, wearing uniforms that fit properly and pantyhose that don’t have holes or runs in them and wearing sensible shoes, understated jewellery and a smile (even if you have to fake it).  This is the look that makes people trust us as professional nurses.

Dressing well, smiling and being polite, does not make you a good nurse.  What it does do, is give patients who are scared and worried, a feeling that you know what you are doing.  I have worked with nurses who are really not that great, but their presentation and manner made patients prefer their care to the highly competent unsmiling, rude, bejewelled and painted nurse.

I decided to leave the cell phones and social media out of this article as I could write another 1000 words on that!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sorbet for being the first non-medical company in South Africa (as far as I could find), to acknowledge nurses day and the work that nurses do, by thanking nurses with a little pamper session.

To the nurses who are just working a job, remember that one day in the future, someone who has used you as a role model may be looking after your family member or loved one.  If you feel your current care is good enough, then continue what you are doing.  However, if you feel you wouldn’t like that being done to your family member, then you need to change. It is never too late to change.

To all the efficient and caring nurses out there, from one nurse to another, thank you for your continued dedication to your profession. I know there are good, caring professional nurses out there, it just seems that they are to few and far between.

I would love to have feedback from readers about their experience with the nursing profession and, nurses, I would love to hear what nursing and Nurse’s Day really means to you.






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