Having worked in the NHS for 25 years I have encountered lots of nurses; men, women, district nurses, theatre nurses, mental health nurses, learning disability nurses, palliative care nurses, community nurses….the list goes on. I’m lucky to have some of these nurses now as my friends. I’ve even been mistaken for a nurse – funny because I know I would make the worlds worse nurse. I’ve always found them to be a bit formidable, they take no nonsense and the stories they tell you! Sitting in meeting rooms with a group of national senior nurses is quite an experience! One of my memorable moments was in one of these national meetings discussing the future of nurse training when one of the senior nurses turned to me and said, “for someone who isn’t a nurse you really have a grasp of what it means to be a nurse, the issues we face, I wouldn’t have guessed that you weren’t a nurse” – silent fist pumping moment there!!
But I realise now that I have never really understand the role that they play until I became a cancer patient. The doctors are great, they explain the technical stuff, they talk in percentages, they refer to research, they give you the options, you have to trust that they are diagnosing correctly and prescribing the best level of care, its a leap of faith and you need to believe in them as professionals who know what they are doing. But once they have left – oh my goodness, that is when the millions of questions, doubts, worries, fears come charging in, and that is when the nurse is there. The breast cancer nurses really are amazing. They sit in the consultation with you as the doctors describe what is happening and the future care plans. They smile at you, reassure you, when you hear something technical or worrying they say “don’t worry, we’ll go over that later”. And then they stay with you, they fill in the gaps, they give you reassurance, information, little bits of info that you didn’t realise you needed, but suddenly find out are essential. They deal with the tears and they treat you like a person, an individual, not a case. When nurses have the time to spend with you they really do make a difference. They calm worries, offer reassurance, but are also pragmatic and realistic about what is happening. There are always lots of little things that I wouldn’t dream of bothering the doctors with, but the nurses actively seek those little things out. I had a slight complication after surgery – I’ve never had surgery before, this is the first time I’ve had breast cancer, I have no idea what is normal and what isn’t – straight away the calm, sensible nurses reassured me that what I was experiencing was normal, not to worry, it didn’t mean that anything was wrong. That voice of calm and reason is just what you need to hear when fear and worry is taking over a large part of you head and thinking.
Of course, I know the theory of what nurses do, but having experienced their compassion and care first hand, I have now felt the reality of receiving care from a nurse. Doctors are brilliant but nurses are just fab!