Sunday, 28 February 2010

Naming and Shamming: my nemesis (and a few brief encounters)

I received an email this week alerting me to the date and times of the Schools Graduation Day this year. I both love and hate occasion. I love Graduation as I get to dress up in fine academic gowns, be on the stage and perform to an international audience via the web. It is a time of celebration and reflection, a brief moment when we can sit and watch our students receive their awards, and be glad they achieved their dreams. We share this wonderful time with families, friends and over the last two years, our ceremonies have been supported by most of the entire School staff.

To my shame, it is also a time I dread. Despite my life long love affair with words, I struggle with the pronunciation of non-English words. All my life I have shied away from languages other than English. I struggle to learn even the odd phrase of a foreign language. I cannot visualize these words, and even when each word is presented phonetically, I find it difficult to then pronounce the words out in a way that doesn’t leave them shredded and incomprehensible. This state of personal being is not helpful when it comes to presenting students at the graduation ceremony. Many of our students have names that are not of English origin. I can practice and practice but can still end up with my anxieties over producing the correct pronunciation completely destroying my self confidence. I then get locked into a vicious circle of a self fulfilling prophecy. This year I am seeking advice from those who know about such problems and will (apart from undertaking a course of brief interventions (CBT and the like) listen and act upon what they have to say (Cura te ipsum).

Interestingly at last years Graduation our Executive Dean, wondered out aloud as to why we didn’t get our nurses to make a public pledge of their professional intent and commitment to nursing and midwifery at the Graduation ceremony. Whilst it is unlikely we will do anything this year to take this idea forward such a pledge is one of the many recommendations coming out of therecently published Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery. This recommendation has not been greeted with universal approval and in some places, even ridiculed by those within the profession. However, perhaps a statement of purpose, one that celebrates the potential, power and values of nursing, along with its unique role is long overdue. When I qualified in 1978 we didn’t have a Graduation Ceremony as such, but we did have the Chief Nursing Officer come and present our certificates and along with parents, family and friends, we all took time out to celebrate nursing and all that this meant. But that was a long time ago.

Also a long time ago I grew up in a place that claims to be the start/end point of the Northern Line (the Black Line on the Underground map). It is also known for being an ancient hamlet in the county of Middlesex, and the place of dastardly deeds by the Highway Man – Dick Turpin, and has one of the largest Jewish populations in London.

The town is called Edgware, and I took my Mum and Dad back there this weekend. The church we all went to as a family was celebrating 75 years of existence, and my parents had been part of the church and community from 1954 - 1974.
It was a strange trip, and one I hadn’t taken for some 40 years. Everything had changed, but also very familiar. There were people at the celebration who clearly remembered me, although I had no recollection of who they were. I am ashamed to say this included a couple of former girlfriends – more brief encounters. I wandered down to look at the house I grew up in. I am the eldest child of seven children, all of whom were born and raised there. The house now seemed very small and not as I remembered it at all.

As I sat there and listened to the many stories, joined in the singing, laughter and shared the reminiscences of people, places and progress, I felt a real sense of disassociation. I was mindful that despite all that has been achieved in the world since that time some forty years ago; much has also been lost from our lives and communities. As I drove back up to Manchester and started to think about making my personal preparations for this year’s Graduation Ceremony I also thought, actually a Nursing Pledge might be a good thing for the profession to embrace. At the graduation ceremony such a pledge would be a very public demonstration of the values and beliefs that are important to us as professionals, people and possible patients.