The experience I am about to tell is true. It happened some few centuries and I will never forget it, nor the person who made me experience my first disappointment in the profession of caring.
It was in the year 1997 when I was given a chance to get an on-the-job training at a local government hospital in a very urbanized area in Metro Manila. I was but a struggling inexperienced licensed nurse, head of the family, and tasked to bring home the bacon, so to speak. During those times, no matter how much theoretical nursing knowledge you have, if you have no “useful contacts,” you cannot access employment to any government-operated institution. Dad said, “Go and finish it, we don’t have a choice. Just get that experience you need.”
And so I did. My only arsenal was a pair of uniform, white shoes that impedes my circulation after 2 hours of continuous standing, my BP apparatus from college days, alongside with knowledge, skills and values my mentors imbibed in me. To say it was difficult and hard is an understatement. I had to report everyday at 6 in the morning and go home around 3 in the afternoon. Waking up early was by far the easiest task among the things that I went through within the walls of that hospital.
Everyday, 6 days a week, when I get home, I had to wash my white uniform immediately so I will be able to wear it with dignity the next day. Everyday, at the facility, I was treated like a clerk. I was instructed to go and check the vital signs, record it on the appropriate part of the patient’s chart and as if it was part of their training, I was constantly sent out to the laboratory or pharmacy to get supplies and results. This went on for four months within four different areas I was assigned and rotated. I was the silent nurse-trainee. Until I was assigned at the pediatric ward.
Like the previous rotations, I was treated with the same unfriendly manner. It seemed that it was all part of their culture. I was ready to silently bear it all until I was called with a name aside from my given name. The head nurse of the pediatric ward called me, “Ms. Piggy, please bring this to patient 10.” I did not reply, instead I obediently carried out the instruction. What I heard after was deafening. Patient 10 called me, “Ms. Piggy, please check my son’s temperature.” I gritted my teeth and went on to check her son’s vital signs.
The next day, I wrote about the incident. I went directly to the Chief Nurse of the said hospital. The head nurse’s attention was called. She defiantly denied such allegations and cried! My pediatric ward assignment was not over yet. I had one more week to finish and see it through to the end, I did. The results of my complaint letter was never heard of.
As much as I wanted to finish the 6-months of training, my innate sense of self-preservation berated me. I retracted my application and explained everything to Dad. It was a bad experience working with a senior nurse. Instead of looking up to them as mentors, I felt that my four years of education and my license were not enough to be treated with utmost professionalism. It was their culture. It was what have become of them – and I don’t want to turn into such person – equipped with knowledge and skills, but devoid of professionalism and stewardship.
I am telling this experience, not to discourage anyone but to remind our senior colleagues that we meet in each hospital training, that the Nursing Profession is but a small world. You were once newly licensed nurse. If not for the kindness of your own mentors, you will not learn what is needed. You won’t be as capable as you are now. In addition, it is not far from the impossible to come face to face with the nurse trainee you treated with such unbecoming manner, only to realize that she happens to be the person who will decide on the fate of your application. If not this way, one way or another, you will come to terms of what you made others go through.
United States motivational writer Earl Nightingale said: “We will receive not what we idly wish for but what we justly earn. Our rewards will always be in exact proportion to our service.”
To the many seedlings of the Nursing Profession, please bear in mind what Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Putting it simply, “Do not kill a young nurse’s passion and the ideals of the profession.”
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