Healthcare professionals are among some of the most undervalued and even unacknowledged heroes of our generation. Be it nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers or even social workers, we only go to them with problems, they do their best to help us and… we move along to get on with our lives, on many occasions not even remembering their faces. A fact I have always been aware of this but never particularly thought of in detail. And I should know, coming from a family of doctors: my father and both my sisters. Not to even mention how accustomed I’ve had to become to hospitals in the last few years
And for anyone with thoughts like: “well that’s their job” or “they chose that life”, this may all be true, but, reality check!: WE pay athletes, actors and musicians obscene amounts of money for our entertainment and then pay a pittance to those supposed to keep us alive and healthy; WE spend thousands, even millions, on the most materialistic, irrelevant possessions we can and still see “free healthcare” as an ideal to strive for/maintain. Chew on that for a minute.
Last week I gave a talk to a class of graduating nurses on Clinical Decision Making as relating to my personal experience and perspective. This is part of a programme run by my alma mater, Teesside University, in which service users are invited to interact with healthcare students in a variety of academic settings. I have been attached to the programme on a part-time basis for two years now and have come across an enormous number of aspiring and current healthcare students. Most of these tend to be in their first or second years of study and as such still need to learn quite a bit and it is a beautiful thing to be a part of as they are always keen and enthusiastic. However, the class I held last week was of final year students, ready to step into the real world where they would ply their trade in service to you and me. This was to be, in fact, their last ever class in university. And it was quite obvious they were ready to take the step from students to professionals. What blew my mind though was the level they had reached as prospective nurses. Not only were they academically sound in their field, they showed genuine passion for nursing and drew quite effectively from their experiences in real world scenarios gained via placements. Their questions were technical, insightful and very well presented. All the while, they seemed quite unaware of how ready they came across. I was in awe and would be completely at ease should my health be in any of their hands in the near future.
This experience forced me to recall my times in hospital following the accident. The comparison between these student nurses and the vast majority of qualified nurses I’ve encountered is heart-warming. The staff at the ICU and spinal unit proved to be some of the most crucial factors in my recovery and rehabilitation: physiotherapists and occupational therapists are now life-long friends; nurses will forever have my unwavering respect for their strength and resilience; healthcare assistants still play a vital role in my life; doctors remind me every day why my father’s death stung so many hearts… and this is just a shortlist of the values of SOME of our heroes in hospitals. My interaction with the graduating nurses, and indeed other healthcare students, only serve to reiterate the notion that our health workers do not get near enough credit as they deserve.
So why is this so? Why do we take our nurses, physios, radiographers healthcare assistants, therapists, social workers etc. for granted? Have we gotten too accustomed by the approach of servitude from the modern health workers? Are we so fearful of ill-health that we unknowingly vilify and distance ourselves from anything remotely associated with ill-health, including those there to help us? Are we so willing to neglect our hospitals until we need them?
Whatever the case, those who tend to our wounds, treat our illnesses and help deliver our children deserve much more than we give them. So next time you are seen to by hospital staff, be it a nurse or any other health care professional, get their name, ask about their day where possible, show clear gratitude. It may not be a pay rise, but it goes a long way to making them feel appreciated and may even remind them of what they truly are, everyday heroes.
This post is dedicated to all medical and healthcare workers who save and improve lives on a daily basis. A special shout out to the amazing staff of the James Cook University Hospital, especially those in the Intensive Care Unit and the Golden Jubilee Spinal Injuries Centre. You saved my life, I am forever in your debt