“Have we lost the Spirit of Nursing?”


The following letter by Angela Pridham originally appeared in the September edition of The Lamp

Over the last six months our elderly parents (90 & 91) were admitted to the local public hospital on three occasions between them. Our experience on all occasions was less than satisfactory and at times very disappointing.

We are both RN’s and we have come to the conclusion that some nurses appear to have lost the Art and Spirit of nursing. We understand that workloads issues are a problem, having worked in the system ourselves, however, empathy, kindness and common sense really do not take that much of your time when you are interacting with the patient whilst attending to care.

As professionals we always tried to treat our patients as we would want our own family to be treated. As relatives we expected nothing more than that and were embarrassed in front of our siblings when care was poor or substandard. In the words of our older sister, ‘Apart from giving us conflicting information, it appears that they either don’t know what is required or they don’t care.’

During our parents admissions we experienced; lack of introduction to the patient or us, lack of gaining consent, flippancy, a medication error resulting in a Sac 2, miscommunication, bad language and disclosure about one nurses personal life whilst attending to a dressing, waiting long periods of time for pain relief, little assistance with meals, lack of empathy, and little acknowledgement of the fact that we knew our parents very well and had been the main carers for them for the past three years.

On each admission, which lasted a minimum of 3 days, we are sad to say there was only one or two nurses each time who showed empathy, kindness and common sense. Those nurses were a wonderful ray of sunshine in what were otherwise bleak times, and restored our faith in the profession. Those nurses were kind, compassionate and acknowledged that we were one of them, knew what we were talking about, and wanted to be involved in the decision making. There is no reason to assume that those nurses had less of a workload than the others yet they found the time to put the relatives at ease, be professional and caring.

This has not been an easy letter to write. Many of you who know us, know that we are passionate about our profession. Perhaps that’s why we felt we had to write to the Lamp because of its wide coverage of nurses. Yes, workloads are a big issue in our hospitals but they are not the only issue. It is also relevant to note here that nurses were often not tied up with patients they were stuck in front of the computer.

The NSWNMA is doing their best to make ratios mandatory, but the rest is up to us. If the Art and Spirit of Nursing is not revisited, we’re not sure that nurses will stay as the No. 1 most trusted profession for much longer.

Letters to the Editor to The Lamp
Members of the NSWNMA can share their thoughts on anything important to them as nurses and midwives by sending a Letter to the Editor.

Four letters are published in the Lamp each month and the letter chosen as Letter of the Month will win a gift card. Please include a high-resolution photo along with your name, address, phone and membership number. You can submit your letter by emailing the Lamplamp@nswnma.asn.au


  1. Angela you are absolutely correct that even though we may be short staffed and whilst the campaign of workloads remains ongoing, the way we are with patients and families is not dependent on how busy we are. We can be run off our feet and still maintain a level of care and approach to care that we ourselves would like to be at the receiving end of it. I have heard similar stories of late myself I have to say it does not sit very well for a profession that is a ‘caring profession’.

    What is going on for nurses that the basics of relationships….respect and decency are not even present?

    There are no excuses for this and certainly a blaming approach does not shift behaviour either. What is needed is honest reflection on where we are at and honest communication with patients and families when we do make errors in judgment and mistakes.

    Considering what ‘care’ means beyond the functional would also be something for each of us to more deeply contemplate.

  2. I can totally relate Angela, connecting with and getting to know our patients and there carers is an absolute must if we are going to provide the care required. I agree the space for a simple ‘caring’ relationship is becoming less common with the rise in demands and time pressures in the workplace. It would be great to interview the nurses that hold this good level of care, decency and respect and find out how?

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