I love caring, but why is nurse training so dehumanising?!

I walked away from a successful and lucrative career in management to pursue a more satisfying, and some might argue noble goal of nursing. I made that choice because, despite decades of accomplishment, I was deeply unfulfilled but discovered I enjoy helping people. This epiphany led me to volunteer as a first responder with St John Ambulance, and confirmed my desire to make a career out of helping people would scratch an itch working in management in the technology sector couldn't reach!

Why then, as a draw to the end of my second year of training to be a nurse, do I find the subject matter so utterly dehumanising? Why do I seem to care less about my fellow human beings now than I did two years ago?

Nurses can be cynical

The cynic in me might suggest that, unlike before, I now see people as they really are, as opposed to an idealised notion of an ever-thankful, perpetually compliant, and positively engaged patient. The counter to this is, having grown up with a mother who is a nurse, and later my brother and a few other family members too, I already know how "real" patients can be. There are some you love working with, while others you're happy to see move on. My role, as a nurse, is to move beyond that, transcend the patient's attitude and be a humble, caring, empathetic member of the team supporting them. I already do that, and it seems I can do a pretty good imitation of empathy when I need to as well. So I don't think this funk I'm in is the result of a "rude awakening".

Maybe the workload is just wearing me out? It's no secret, 2020 has been challenging for everyone. Between natural disasters and a global pandemic, honestly, 2020 can get stuffed! University study is always challenging, and I've never been afraid of hard work, long hours or stretching myself to learn new skills or knowledge. I will admit, the lack of any time off since basically February has been incredibly difficult this year though. So yes, I'm tired. I'm weary. I need a break. Yet, there is still this underlying sense of futility about what I'm studying.

When I have been on placement, in the hospital system, treating real patients, I have a sense of accomplishment. The information I absorbed in the classroom comes to life, and all of a sudden, things make a lot more sense. At the same time, I'm confronted with the reality I'm still nursing student and acutely aware of the gaps in my understanding which I try hard to fill.

Keep calm, and finish nursing school

Then, I get back to my prescribed study material and feel so utterly disappointed with how impractical a significant proportion of the material is. There is a profound disconnect from academia and the skill of nursing in the real world. I saw this in my last degree (Computer Science), but there was little riding on that; I was already working in the industry and happily regurgitated the outdated curriculum to get the prize at the end. However, nursing is so much more consequential. Like I learned during my flying training, mistakes can cost lives. So why is the university curriculum for nursing so obsessed with non-clinical, non-consequential "fluff"? Do I need to obsess over whether I put that comma in the correct place in my reference list, or should I be more focused on the content? Academia and academics, in general, seem to have lost their way; somewhere between being a "real" nurse and an academic, something went wrong, and now the students pay for it.

As I sit here, procrastinating (again) and putting off these last two assessment items (one for an aging patient subject, the other for mental health nursing) I am conflicted. I know I should be feeling accomplished to see the end of another year almost in the bag, relieved I survived 2020 as a full-time student, and eager to launch into my final year of study in 2021 to complete my nursing degree. However, I'm struggling with the motivation to obsess over the placement of that comma and regurgitate a bunch of "fluff" that won't help me nurse older patients or patients with mental health problems. I know this, because I have done both, then sat through an entire semester and only learned what my lecturers like to hear. So once more into the breach to add another voice to the academic echo chamber, whilst relentlessly slogging toward registration.


Comments powered by Disqus