The changing face of nursing
While the technical aspects of the profession may change with progress, the basic needs of the sick - love and concern - will forever remain unchanged.
By Dr Chris Anthony
Nurses’ Day which falls on May 12 is a day to honour our nurses for their hard work and dedication in caring for the sick and dying. It is the birthday of Florence Nightingale who is credited as being the creator of modern, professional nursing, the fraternity to which our nurses belong.
I asked a retired nursing matron the other day what she thought about profession today. Without hesitation she said, “It is not as good as it used to be. I miss the days when nursing used to be a real vocation, not just a form of employment as it is now”. This sentiment unfortunately is shared by most other senior and retired nursing staff.
One could argue that many senior nurses feel this way because they are ill-prepared to handle the sophisticated systems of operations in the medical field today. Nevertheless in the name of progress and modernisation, we must admit that we have lost some of the cherished values of the nursing profession of the past – the personal human touch, which is so important in the care of the sick. In fact the virtues of empathy and human touch are the basic qualities that makes the nursing profession exceptionally unique and noble.
Nursing the sick is no ordinary task especially when those nursed are total strangers and there is no love attached to them whatsoever. It used to be a vocation where a nurse had to have some feelings for fellow men who were sick and dying, the absence of which made it extremely difficult to be a good nurse. However with today’s advances in medicine, this human touch is slowly but surely being replaced by high-tech mechanisation.
Moreover with commercialisation, privatisation and lately corporatisation of the medical services, not only are our nurses losing the human touch, they are being subjected to numerous clerical and accounting jobs, leaving little or no time for true nursing duties for which they were trained. The corporations they work for are driven solely by monetary profits and in this system there is little or no appreciation for the loyalty and dedication of the nurses who are often abused not only by the authorities but by patients and their relatives when things go wrong.
Not only are hospitals run like big corporations, even the training of nurses are corporatised. As such nurses are churned out in large numbers with many receiving inadequate clinical training as opposed to the situation before. Therefore we have a situation where hospitals are flooded with poorly trained junior nurses who have to cope with the management of patients relying mostly on the theoretical knowledge they have. The sad thing is there are hardly any seniors to guide them as the majority have migrated to greener pastures.
Nurses today work under great difficulties and are under tremendous pressure from within and without. The demands on them are tremendous, at times almost unreasonable. Amidst these limitations we salute those who still hold on to the age-old tradition of offering a smile and a personal touch when the sick and dying need it most.
The nursing profession is in for major changes as it strives to meet the present day needs of the people which have become extremely complex. We may not have the Nightingale model of nursing education anymore but of course we can adopt a system to produce our own Nightingales who can care for our sick with passion and with a human touch.
The adage, “Doctors diagnose nurses cure” highlights the extremely vital role nurses play in the total care of the sick. While the technical aspects of the profession may change with progress, the basic needs of the sick, love and concern, will forever remain unchanged.
Happy Nurses Day!
Dr Chris Anthony is an FMT reader.