Time To Change The Narrative About Nurses - The M Word

Time To Change The Narrative About Nurses

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I am nursing a grudge.

I am annoyed at how nurses are reflected in society.

It’s time to get rid of the ‘kindly-nurse.’ The ‘Florence-Nightingale’ image of the nurse who comes in to mop your brow and is there to serve the high status doctors and consultants.

It’s time to create a national dialogue that places nurses at the centre, for they are our most specialised and dynamic of healthcare providers.

It’s time to treat them with the status they deserve and create a place for them in the top of the healthcare hierarchy and provide them with the pay and conditions, status and recognition that they fully deserve.

The scheduled national strike for all nurses went ahead today with many standing on the picket lines from 7.00am – frozen but determined.  I should know, as three of my own sisters are nurses and they were sending me their woolly-hatted selfies in their three separate locations.

And I am behind them every way.

Nurses are the invisible bedrock behind our healthcare service.  They are present at life’s most important moments – the birth of our children, when we arrive in to A&E at our most fraught time and they are there at the final days of life itself.

A shocking amount of nurses who have trained here in the last few years have been forced to go to Canada, US, Australia, etc. We are losing our nurses to better pay and conditions of work.  It was heartening to see so much support from nurses around the world, holding banners on social media, yet I am sure many of them want to return home but their healthcare hands are tied.

My own sisters are nurses in very different settings – one a theatre nurse, one a midwife and one a third level college nurse.   Every single day they are the ones who are the first port of call with the patient before seeing the doctor or consultant.

They must be knowledgeable in such a holistic way – not only about area of medicine and healthcare, but interpersonal skills, fantastic judgement and a comprehensive and inclusive knowledge of everything.  They have to think on their feet, they have to be most enduring, all seeing presence on the ward, the hospitals and surgeries.

In my own family, I have heard stories of their patient advocacy.  One sister who asked a surgeon to redo a patient’s Caesarean wound as it was too puckered and done too quickly. Another sister who stayed with the family in the waiting room for hours when a mother died unexpectedly. Another sister who spoke to a young college student who had left home – who came in with a suspected STD infection – yet the problem was loneliness and mental health.  Only three nurses but a myriad of disciplines and specialisms there.

This narrative about nurses – and I have heard this for years around the family dinner table – uses words like caring, compassion, kindness.  The narrative for other healthcare providers is skill, expertise and competency.

It is the passive, feminisation of their profession that irks me. This language and narrative does not reflect the stealth, the status and the powerful role that they play.

They are the diamond in our healthcare system and it is high time to give them a status of substance.

Time to take that narrative and administer a powerful shot of fentanyl and kill it forever.


Fionnaigh O'Connor
Fionnaigh O'Connor
Galway girl, adopted Dubliner, online magazine contributor, literacy teacher, mother of one darling, sporty daughter and identical boys who are not at all creepy in The Shining sort of way.