Published on: Tuesday 05 May 2020 at 21:13
We are now at a time when the true value of nursing is, rightly, being recognised across the globe. In a crisis nurses come into their own. In recent weeks the whole of the nursing profession has proven just how responsive and adaptable they can be; how their strength and unfailing dedication can be a source of inspiration to all when times are tough.
Year of the Nurse
Now, in 2020 – the Year of The Nurse, it is not just time to celebrate all that nurses bring to our wider society and healthcare system. It is time to start looking at how the nursing profession can begin to take an active role in reshaping the health service once we emerge from the throes of Covid-19.
There is something particularly special about palliative care nursing – it’s where art meets science. Palliative nurses know when to administer the right medication to deliver the most pain relief, or which medication to use to offset side effects – this is the science. The art comes in the form of the nurse, who puts their heart and soul into caring for the patient.
Nursing through Covid
Palliative care nursing professionals turn managing other people’s fears into an art form. We help people come to face their fears and come to terms with their own mortality. A key challenge for palliative nursing professionals throughout Covid has been to carry on managing others fears, whilst dealing with their own. I’m in awe of my team who are managing it and are doing well with it. Something that I’m fearful about is that there are so many people out there who are dying with conditions other than Covid, but because of the pandemic are too fearful to seek appropriate care. We need to make sure we are advocating for them too – to make sure that they aren’t falling at the last hurdle on their own.
Advocacy is often an unrecognised skill in nursing, but it is something that palliative nurses take very seriously. When you are caring for a patient who is dying you are in a position where you have to be their voice and not yours – it’s a non judgemental way of looking after someone. It’s often not an easy role; if someone doesn’t want painkillers because of their beliefs, it can be hard to watch them be in pain but you are there to act on their behalf – to be the patient’s voice. You have to have a good knowledge of culture and be ok with the fact that people are different. I’m confident that my team are really good advocates; they act with integrity to support patients’ dying wishes.
Some of the inherent skills nurses possess: the ability to adapt quickly to change; advocate for others and support them through change; and lead through a crisis, demonstrates the monumental role they can play as our health service recovers from the Covid pandemic.
Leadership in nursing
I’m so proud of everyone in my nursing team; throughout this crisis they have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. Leadership isn’t something that just takes place at management or director level; leadership is about being an agent of change and everyone in the nursing team at St Clare Hospice has stepped up and begun to lead through the crisis.
For too long nurses have been perceived as being handmaidens – the poorer partners in the healthcare system. Now is the time for change; now is the time for us nurses to believe in ourselves. I know that some see us as angels, and I’m not disputing that many of my colleagues are, but they are so much more than that; nurses are strong, capable, educated professionals. Yes they are compassionate, but they are also tenacious, driven and committed to excellence. I want people to see nurses for their professionalism, tenacity, problem solving, brains, for everything that sits behind that angelic frontage.
I am certain that Florence Nightingale was not an angel. She changed the world and was a leader through and through. She reshaped the healthcare system following her experiences in the Crimea. Now, 200 years since Florence Nightingale’s birth, our generation of nurses have the opportunity to follow in her footsteps, believe in themselves and their ability to be agents and advocates for change as we emerge from this crisis stronger, together.
If we achieve one thing in 2020, the Year of the Nurse, I’d like the nursing profession to finally shrug off this handmaiden role – for nursing to be recognised as an accolade, as a rewarding career which can offer progression and for the skills inherent within nursing professionals to be recognised, valued and rewarded.
Carolanne Brannan is St Clare’s Director of Patient Care, and has worked in many areas within healthcare delivery but has mainly specialised in oncology and palliative care. Her previous role was as Clinical Lead for a project within St Joseph’s Hospice in London. Prior to this, she managed community nursing teams at the hospice. Carolanne has worked at the Royal Marsden Hospital; firstly with the palliative care team and subsequently implementing the Coordinate My Care (CMC) project across London.
Carolanne has experience in strategic growth of hospice services. She has a keen interest in broadening hospice access for patients and service users, ensuring that we minimise any inequities within access of hospice care. She is part way through her MSc in Service Redesign and Leadership which she finds extremely motivating and relevant to her role within St Clare.