In this the International year of the Nurse/Midwife we can look back in history and see examples of nurses who have been inspirational in encouraging people to make nursing their career.
There are some women and men who have been instrumental in making nursing and midwifery what it is today.
Some historians would argue that as far back as 250AD, men were in fact predominantly the ones who provided nursing care to the sick and the poor, with the first nursing school thought to be all male in India.
St Agatha of Sicily is the most well known patron saint of nurses, with three other patron saints, St Catherine, St Elizabeth with St Camillus de Lellis being a male. In fact, he is one of the first male nurses of the profession. He decided to become a priest only to resign in 1607 to continue to care for people affected with alcoholism. All these saints were known to inspire nurses.
Despite this, many view Florence Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing. However she was thought to hold the view that nursing was more natural to a woman and this was detrimental to the acceptance of males into the profession. More recently there was Clara Barton who was the founder of the American Red Cross and was an inspiration for going into the battlefields to help those needing first aid. Males were also present on the frontlines but were thought to have had less training.
Elizabeth Grace Neill was responsible amongst other things for creating the nurse register that ensured nursing was seen as a profession. In 1919 males also were recognised by a register.
The Nursing Theory was developed by Avenel Henderson, who was considered as the most famous nurse of the 20th Century , with all her contributions and influence to American and international nursing education, practice, research as well as its implications.
There was also Mary Eliza Mahoney who was the first registered black nurse, who continued to work throughout her career to fight discrimination and co-founded the National Asssociation of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908 .The NACGN became Mahoney’s instrument in improving the status of black nurses in the profession nationwide.
In relation to recognising mental health issues, Dorothea Dix was the first advocate nurse who fought to improve care for people with mental health issues, with Margaret Sangar who was instrumental in ensuring the rights of women and worked for over 40 years to ensure birth control was available to women from the 1950s.
Edward Lyon in 1955 became the very first male nurse to be commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps in the US as a reserve officer.
These are only a selection of international nurses who worked tirelessly to ensure the rights of all people, alongside challenging legislation to establish nursing and midwifery as it is today, which is now devoid of discrimination . Nurses can now work and lead in all fields which offer positive career pathways, regardless of background, race, ethnicity or gender.
Nowadays we often see the young student nurse who has spent their whole childhood dreaming of being a nurse, but for many their decision comes out of a personal or family situation that changed them in such a way that they were inspired to want to be an nurse themselves.
The more I explore this subject, the one thing that can’t be disputed is that those who choose nursing as a profession want to make a difference, to give back, they are determined and genuinely care for people, often going above and beyond.
For me personally, my childhood dream was to be a police officer, not a nurse, because I felt that by joining the police it was the one job I could help people, keep them safe and which would challenge me and make me a stronger person.
I believed this was the job that I would get the most satisfaction from and that would make me a better person in the process.
The year before I applied, my gran suffered a stroke in her late 70s. Post-stroke despite still being mobile, she was no longer able to look after herself and she subsequently came to live with us.
Psychologically she had changed due to the stroke, as did our relationship. My gran was my inspiration and to see her dependent changed my whole mindset and view on what really mattered in life.
I was always close to my gran, but our roles had reversed, having to care for her and hold her hand and comfort her, to help her understand things and still to enjoy life despite its frustrations, as well as being beside her, 3 years later, when she passed away peacefully at home .
Alongside this, I watched my mother with two teenagers take on the role of carer, give up her job and manage all the dynamics of the family.
It made me realise that nursing someone can give so much joy and gave me everything that being a police officer would’ve and more importantly gave me the empathy that ultimately directed me into nursing. Nursing someone you love is different, as its personal, but it gives you the insight to understand what the families of those you nurse are going through. Never underestimate this.
I believe her illness gave me the best gift. I started my training in 1987 and haven’t looked back.
Our patients and residents without question remind us every day why we are nurses, they let us into their lives, tell us their secrets and trust us to provide the care they need, literally for some, putting their lives in our hands.
The nurse-patient/resident relationship differs depending on which area of nursing you choose to work in, but can teach you how to be compassionate, and develop a patient centred approach, which ensures people’s needs and rights are met.
We know these are challenging times and there will be points in your career that you question if you still want to be in nursing, but I ask you to stop and remember why you became a nurse, and maybe consider that you may just need a change of environment, not a change of job.
As the workforce lead for Nursing at Scottish Care I would promote working with older people in care home nursing, as it offers a homely environment to build relationships with residents and families and provides the potential for an exceptional career pathway for you as a nurse. We do need an increase of younger people, men and people over the age of 40 years, as well as more people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to continue to join the profession, to ensure future workforce stability.
As nurses we hope we inspire others to do their best, nothing more or less and others to continue to inspire us in the same way.
Transforming Workforce Lead for Nursing, Scottish Care