Become a nurse. Do you want to become a nurse, but you are not sure what it entails. Schools That Rock asked Sr Marelize Nieuwoudt, nurse manager of Life Rosepark Hospital in Bloemfontein, to tell you more about the career as a nurse. What should I know before I decide to follow nursing as a career?
Sr Marelize, why did you choose to pursue a career in nursing? “As a little girl it was my dream to become a nurse. I always treated all the injured animals I could find, from baby birds to my pets. My grand mother made me a nursing uniform which I wore constantly. It was all I wanted to wear. Nursing is a caring profession. You have the privilege of witnessing a baby taking their first breath and the honour of holding the hand of someone who is taking their last breath. Nursing is so rewarding. This may sound so cliche, nursing is a calling. Nursing is a caring profession where you see people at their most vulnerable. It takes a special person to make people feel safe even though they are facing their worst nightmare.”
“Florence Nightingale once said:” ”Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work.” This quote resonates with me as I believe very strongly that nursing as much as it is a science, it is a work of art. There are a multitude of specialties in which you can develop yourself and specialize as a nurse. My desire to help people and to alleviate all pain whether it be physical or emotional.
Ever changing evolving profession
As a Nurse you will support not only patients but their families too, we often forget that patients have a life outside the hospital and I think that it is imperative that they are treated holistically, which means you have involve the family too. To stand still in Nursing is like painting the same painting over and over, never changing a thing, this will cause you to go backwards.
Nursing is an ever changing evolving profession, not one day is the same as the previous one, because of this you need to be able to think on your feet. This is what attracted me the most, it is such stimulating profession, and one needs to keep up to date to stay ahead. I believe that this is why Florence Nightingale thought of Nursing as an art, no artist can create the exact same painting or piece of art, but it is beautiful each time, especially when created by a passionate artist.”
Are there specific subjects a person need to take at school? “Yes, you would need to focus more on Mathematics, Science or Life Sciences. It would be an advantage to be literate in English as most of the Healthcare textbooks are in English. You would also need a specific admission point, but this will differ at each University.”
What do you find rewarding about the nursing career? “Nursing is personally fulfilling, knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life is the best feeling. After a long day, we should be thanking our patients for allowing us to feel so fulfilled, we might make their day a little brighter by taking the time to have a chat with them. I don’t think that they realize how much each patient means to us as nurses, and how many lessons we have learned from them. There will always be those that we remember more than others, but there is nothing better than a patient coming up to you in the shop telling you how much you meant to them while they were admitted.
We all think that you need a grand gesture to make people feel better or to go the extra mile, in nursing it is as simple as a kind word or just holding the hand of a scared patient. I have also discovered that a cup of coffee or tea made with love goes a long way. What we take for granted every day, like having a cup of tea in the morning is like nectar to someone who has been ventilated for 3 months.
When you nurse you learn to truly appreciate the simpler things in life, the things that money cannot buy, the saying health is wealth takes on a new meaning. We are at the bedside 24/7, 365 days of the year and over the course of one day, you may experience a roller-coaster of emotions from joy, happiness, sadness, fear, and anxiety, it sounds scary, doesn’t it? Trust me it’s worth it!”
How do you have to deal with someone who isn’t satisfied with your patient care? “The number one rule for me is to listen. It is not about who is right or wrong. The reality is that if a patient is not satisfied, that is the patient’s reality and lived experience. One must always remember that each person is different, and their experience will be different as we are all unique individuals. To acknowledge the concerns of the patient, and to give the patient the opportunity to state what his/her expectations are. Most of the time dissatisfaction is due to a lack of communication, uncertainty and fear for the unknown.
To listen and acknowledge the concern in most instances resolves the complaint. People always say treat people how you would want to be treated, but I would go a step further and say treat people how they want to be treated. Afterwards it is important to make sure that you can identify the lesson learned from the complain and use it to improve your approach.”
Sr Marelize, please tell me what skills a nurse need. “The number one skill is compassion and empathy – that is the heart of nursing. To be proud of your profession and to always act in a professional way. You need to be able to work in a team and be able to collaborate with other healthcare disciplines. Communication is vital across the board. Being proactive and the ability to think on your feet is crucial. In healthcare the only constant is change so you need invest in continuous professional development this will enable you to have the confidence to be an advocate for your patient.
As nursing is emotionally taxing it is vital to have resilience, resilience isn’t a skill that you are magically born with, it grows each time you fall 5 times but get up 6. A sense of humour is vital as a nurse, you need to be able to see the funny side of sometimes very dire situations. Laughter is truly the best medicine.”
How do you handle the stress of the nursing career? “In the beginning I found this very difficult. When I still was a front line nurse, you spend 12 hours on your feet, sharing emotions with your team, patient and families. When you get home to your family you are sometimes just too tired to talk. There were times that you did not have time to process your emotions, and then one day you realize you are emotionally tired.
Therefore, my passion as a manager and leader is to bring nurses in touch with their emotions. To teach them the ability to reflect on their day, to deal with the different emotions they experience during a day. Educate and empower them to become resilient. You must look after yourself. As nurses we tend to care for everyone except ourselves. You need to identify some activities that you love and invest time in that. I love gardening, reading and craft work.”
What do you find is the hardest part about being a nurse? “The mental, emotional and physical exhaustion at the end of a day. Nurses face human suffering in their daily work and often need to suppress their emotional reactions to “soften the patients’ distress”. This sometimes comes at a cost and therefore resilience is vital. Therefore, I am glad that nurses wear a uniform, the uniform is like armour that we take off at the end of the day.
It is sometimes tough to acknowledge your own emotions, nurses tend to play down their own feelings as they do not want to upset the people around them, this does cause a mental toll on them. Nurses were superheroes long before the Covid Pandemic hit, but people only started to realize what we were doing as we had to take on so many roles due to the patients’ families not being able to see them. It is always hard seeing someone suffer, nothing prepares you for that.”
What kind of qualities are you seeking in a nurse? “The 6 C’s of caring, its an expression that nursing consists of commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, critical thinking and confidence. An open mind and an attitude of gratitude is also important.”
Thank you to Sr Marelize for helping the learners choosing a career. Schools That Rock.
On 12 May, the Life Rosepark Hospital celebrates International Nursing Day. On this day, nurses’ daily efforts to serve their communities are celebrated. More importantly, we salute our nurses who are constantly proving that delivering high quality healthcare not only ensures a positive patient experience, but also better clinical outcomes. At Life Rosepark Hospital, our patients are the center of the healthcare provided by our nurses. Not just on International Nursing Day, but every day.
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