Picture: Caitlin Brassington

Am I ‘just a nurse’?

By Caitlin Brassington

A few nights ago I arrived home from a busy shift at work, looking very ordinary in my scrubs.

That morning, I had left my three girls still asleep in their beds at 6:00am in the care of a babysitter to get them ready for school and child care, so I could go to work as a nurse.

I was tired, I hadn’t had lunch and I had been caring for some very sick babies.

I was also angry, very angry, and a little sad.

On the way home, I stopped at the shop for milk and saw an acquaintance.

She had never seen me in uniform before and said she didn’t realise I was “just a nurse”.

Wow! Just Wow!

Over my 18-year career, I have heard this phrase many, many times. But today it got to me.

Maybe it got to me because I am exhausted — emotionally and physically — from what is actually just a normal day at work for me.

Maybe it got to me because I have no understanding of how so many people open their mouths without thinking.

Perhaps it was “just a slip of the tongue” — but really, as a community, should we not be embracing everyone’s careers, and not be making assumptions of their worth or value based on their job title?

Would this lady have said “just a …” to me had I been wearing a suit and heels, instead of scrubs and my very unflattering but necessary nurses’ shoes?

In a world of screens and texting, do we actually just need a reminder of how to talk to people off-screen, how to show gratitude, and how to recognise the effect our words can have on others?

So, before I dashed out the door to do school pick-up, I wrote an open letter on Facebook to my lovely acquaintance at the corner store, asking: am I just a nurse?

Immediately after I posted this, I had to put my mum hat back on and do school pick-up and after-school sporting activities.

During the afternoon, the thought crossed my mind several times that I had been hasty in venting my thoughts on Facebook — something I have never done to such an extent.

But when I got home, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see the response.

The support, appreciation, recognition and love for nurses has been, and continues to be, truly humbling.

Picture: Caitlin Brassington

We are not a profession that very often stands up and says: “Look at me — tell me what a good job I am doing”.

And I think, because of this, we rarely actually hear what the greater community sees in us.

So many of the comments have touched me.

There was Ruth who talked of her friend returning to Toowoomba Palliative Care after a long stay in the PA Hospital Spinal Ward. Her nurses from the PA drove 130 kilometres to say goodbye to her on the afternoon of her passing.

John, an intensive care unit (ICU) doctor, spoke of the vulnerable and critically sick patients that he left in the care of the “healing hands” of the ICU nurses.

Alistair, a hospital chaplain, praised the nurses he works alongside as the healers and comforters of the hospital.

And Mitch took the time to comment from the hospital room following his partner’s emergency C-section. He spoke of the dedication of the midwife in staying with her patient long after her shift was finished, to ensure the safe delivery of his new baby girl.

The comments on Facebook have been remarkable — many of them have made me cry or laugh, but all of them have moved me.

All nurses should read comments

If absolutely nothing else comes out of the post, I would love two things to happen.

Nothing would make me happier than for all nurses to read through these comments. These sentiments of recognition, respect, gratitude and encouragement are not just for me, they are for all nurses, worldwide — we all deserve to hear them.

I would also like for us as a society to stop using the word “just” when we talk about others and ourselves in reference to our occupation or vocation.

We are not “just nurses”, “just teachers”, “just cops”, “just mums”, or “just dads”.

We are saving lives, shaping the minds of the future, and creating change.

Stand tall, stand proud and support each other with unapologetic positivity.

Yes, I am #proudtobejustanurse.

Caitlin Brassington is a registered nurse at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Toowoomba and at Fairholme College Toowoomba in Queensland. She is also a mother of three and wife. She can be found on Instagram and on Facebook.

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