For years, nursing leaders have fought for our freedom, autonomy, rights and value as a profession. They’ve worked for years to ensure that nursing as a whole was recognized for the work that it did; that nurses made the difference with the health, survival and recovery of patients. That we were not only doctors handmaids; carrying out orders without thought or question. They strived to ensure that we were well trained, that our education was rooted and grounded in theory, research and practice. Yet, in spite of all they did to remove the negative stigma of nurses, today, in the 21st century, we are still being belittled and degraded. However this time it’s not from the outsiders looking in, but from those among us who should know better.
Being a nurse in Antigua and Barbuda seems to not hold any value anymore, especially a young nurse. As much as the older nurses would like to believe that this is due to doctors and politicians who do not value the service we provide, it is from they themselves that are putting a bitter taste in the mouths of most nurses. We are constantly being spoken to like children, having our rights taken away from us, being humiliated in front of patients, being thrown to the dogs in the event that we make mistakes. We are no longer allowed to have a voice, to air our views without fear of retaliation. It seems the more seasoned some nurses become in the profession, the more hard and unreasonable they are. Things that were once acceptable for them are no longer on the table for discussion. Some take comfort in seeing their junior colleagues crying and begging; setting unrealistically high standards for us to meet that they wouldn’t have accomplished at that time. When our leaders have turned against us, who is there to advocate for us? Instead of ensuring that their nurses are treated fairly in the work environment, they are the ones on the front lines, wielding a sword of insults making the work environment tense and uncomfortable. Where is the respect and professionalism? How can we give quality nursing care when we are bickering amongst ourselves? When nurses are having conflicts among themselves, what happens to their patients?
Veteran nurses seem to have forgotten that they were once juniors, fresh out of nursing school, just learning that what you were taught and what the reality is can be very different. They have seem to forgotten learning to deal with the responsibility of being accountable for another person’s life. They have seem to forgotten the cold sweat and rapid heartbeat when asked a question by your senior that you couldn’t answer. Have they truly forgotten… or are they continuing a vicious cycle of “eating their young” which is often associated with the nursing profession? Few in that group see the young and vulnerable among them as potential shift supervisors, charge nurses, managers and health officials. They see them as a bunch of ‘this’ and ‘thats’, who shouldn’t have been allowed to enter, much less graduate from nursing school. They allow their prejudices to blind them from giving that person a fair chance. As a result, instead of seeing the learning potential of these young fresh minds, they leave them to fend for themselves, being quick to point a finger when they make inevitable mistakes. Are they so high up in the clouds that they don’t remember their days on the ground?
It is very disheartening for us as youngsters in the profession to feel that we are constantly being pushed around; to feel that every idea that we come up with is being shot down without consideration. Most of us, if not all of us became a member of the nursing fraternity because we want to care for the sick. Some of our reasons may go deeper but that is one thing that goes across the board. When we see this kind of violence in the workplace, it dampens our love for the profession. We become demotivated and do not carry out our duties the way that we should. Some either leave the establishment or the profession entirely.
It is understood that as new members of the profession, that we need guidance, that we have to be trained beyond our training, and taught beyond our teaching. It is those seasoned veterans that must teach us, that must mold us into being good nurses. For if we become good nurses, we in turn reflect positively on the profession and our leaders. Therefore, we are looking to you our seniors, leaders, supervisors and mangers, for your guidance and your patience. That you may bring out the best in all of us, that we will strive not only to care for our patients, but to foster lasting, professional interpersonal relationships with our colleagues.