Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Case for Crown Courts, Squirrels and Being a Nurse

Apart from having to pay £8.50 for a glass of an ordinary red wine at a hotel this week, one of the many strange and unusual things to have happened to me was to find myself on the other side of the Bench in Court, giving evidence at a Crown Court Case.

It was a day of much waiting around, where jovial conversations eventually dry up and you can’t remember how you managed to get into the position in the first place. The conduct of the case was interesting. When I was finally called it was to be asked a series of questions that focused on a very narrow aspect of my relationship and involvement with the individual in the dock. Clearly the barrister had a strategy he was following, and the information I gave, limited and sharply focused as it was, was aimed at him realizing this. I felt as if I was simply a means to an end – and this was, for me, an uncomfortable feeling.

I believe that as nurses we are trained and educated to take on board a wide range of information as we work with others in helping them to help themselves. We listen to what is said, and hopefully also consider what is not said. We watch and observe, we comfort and we suggest. We give individuals room to express their feelings and hopes, and find ways to contain anxieties. We provide a shoulder to lean upon – both physically and metaphorically, and in a general sense we are at our best when we are able to be there for our patients. We do all of this because we learn to become good at ‘doing’ nursing as well as ‘being’ a nurse.

I emphasized these thoughts in my welcome address to all our new students when I greeted them last week. Like many Schools in the University, we had a bumper number of students starting their studies with us. Whilst this large number of student’s poses many challenges for us as educators, it was also reassuring to see so many people, of different ages and backgrounds who wanted to become a nurse. Of course, I know that some will quickly change their mind, and do so for a variety of reasons, some of which we will understand easier than others, but I thought such a large number was a good endorsement of how far nurses have come as a profession.

This brings me to a further strange or rather sad thing to have happened to me this week. I and many other colleagues from practice and education, met with the CNO for England to get an up-date report on a range of ongoing issues currently affecting the profession. Meeting with Chris Beasley was not strange, indeed she was in a feisty and confident mood, and very inspirational, no it was a report from a public focus group undertaken as part of the Prime Ministers Consultation that disturbed me.

The outcomes of this data collection and analysis revealed a much distorted view of nurses being shared across a wide and diverse representative group of the general public. People were reported to have been very surprised that nurses were educated to degree level, that they could be autonomous practitioners, prescribe medication and didn’t need to wait for a doctor to tell them what to do before intervening! I found it strange that such stereotypical views still exist yet the opportunity of becoming a nurse was still demonstrably a very attractive choice, if the numbers starting their education and training with us was anything to go by.

Finally, two story’s about hands, one about biting the hand that feeds, and the other about the hand that cares. The first story is about being attacked (twice) by a very angry squirrel. I have many mature trees and bushes surrounding my house. There is a large colony of grey squirrels that live in these trees, and indeed, for much of the time I enjoy watching them scamper and climb around. They get porridge oats and monkey nuts every morning. So I was very surprised to be attacked by one of these little fellows – and it was a determined attack too. He really was tenacious in his attack (of me and my car). I was eventually able to drive him away and can only suppose the poor little thing was ill as they normally steer clear of any contact with humans. So of course having driven him away I immediately felt guilty that I was unable to do more to help.

The second story was the sight of a nurse comforting one of the children involved in the dreadful accident in Suffolk. As the TV commentator’s spoke of the accident an off duty nurse could be seen gently stroking the child’s hand and arm. Perhaps sometimes we forget the power of touch in our work.