I've had this blog for quite a long time, and never done anything with it. I'd frequently decide on a concept and then have nothing to say. So i'm having another go now; my main topic of conversation at the moment is my personal journey as I transition from Student to Staff Nurse. I'm going to write a post about that soon, as I feel like I have so, so many different thoughts in my head and i've always found writing to be cathartic.
I recognise that neither my domain name or layout are particularly "nursey" but I am also more than just a Nurse, I'm a 27 year old woman, I love music, and having fun, and cooking and Feminism all kinds of different things. Thats all okay in my eyes, Nurses are people too, and I think sometimes we forget that. As an example; there is always dialogue in the media about whether nurses should smoke or be fat, or drink alcohol and all those sorts of things. The Department of Health even launched a smoking cessation campaign which targeted Nurses, yet ignored the other allied healthcare professions. I'm sure it's also no surprise that The Daily Mail have had their say on this matter as well, suggesting that overweight Nurses and Medics "should be given stomach stapling", and the comments on that article are beyond the pale.
A big concept in nursing is the agency of the individual, in sociological terms, to be an "agent" is to engage with a social structure, to have capacity as an individual and exercise your given rights within that sphere. We nurses protect the individuals right to exercise their autonomy and act as a free agent, and so I always wonder why as a Nurse, I'm expected to be perfect? If I always make the care of patients my first concern, and I provide good, safe and evidence based care, why does it matter so much if I drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes in my own spare time? I believe the issue is around the credibility of health promotion advice coming from a nurse who is a fat smoker, but my work as a nurse isn't my whole life. I may be viewed negatively for saying this, but I also exist in terms of my own personality, my likes and dislikes, that activities that I enjoy, my family, my friends, and the other parts that make up a whole person.
To give this some context; at the beginning of this year I found myself in quite a complicated and snowballing situation with my own health, I was ill and frequently cared for by members of the health care profession. So in that sphere, I was an autonomous adult, seeking care from qualified people, who were all trained and proactive in protecting my rights. I existed within that scenario as a patient, and therefore my choices about my lifestyle were viewed non-judgmentally. I am a smoker (though i'd like to stop) and nobody batted an eyelid. When I was routinely screened for alcohol consumption I explained that I drink infrequently, but when I do drink I might drink two bottles of wine in one evening. As the patient it appeared that I was entitled to make those choices, and nobody was going to outwardly judge me, or go above the cursory "The government recommend XX on XX days..." speech.
I exist in both of these scenarios; as Nurse and as a patient. I do my best for patients and I love being a nurse. I am also a human woman, I have my own struggles with addiction to nicotine, and sometimes drinking all my weeks alcohol allowance in one night, and whilst I'm prepared to try the measures set out by the NHS and the government, I am not superhuman. Some things are hard. To expect Nurses to suddenly stop drinking and stop smoking and drop all of their excess weight is unreasonable and unrealistic, if not completely ineffectual.
If i'm engaging a patient in health promotion discussion, and they bring up my smoking status, or the way my body looks, I will remind them politely, that they're the patient and I am the nurse and when I visit my Nurse, that is the time to talk about me.
I'm almost certain that some people will disagree with me, if you wanted to, you could articulate in the comments.