Not Enough Respect Shown To ENs

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Brett, an Enrolled Nurse student

Unfortunately, it’s somewhat common for student nurses to be treated poorly, be spoken down to or even belittled for speaking up. Just because they’re a student. This is disappointing and for some nurses, this can continue for many years in many forms. Brett is a student enrolled nurse who wrote to The Lamp about the lack of respect he gets for studying at TAFE. 

Brett: I know I’m not the first one to raise the issue of disrespect towards ENs, but it continues to be an issue. Hearing “TAFE isn’t as good as university” is disheartening especially since I do a lot of the same basic care.

My parents both work in healthcare and were a large influence in my decision to become an EN. I chose this career for the same reason many other nurses do, because I care a lot and honestly love helping patients.

I’m looking forward to finishing my studies and I hope this perception of ENs being ‘lesser’ is done away with sooner rather than later.

UPDATE from Brett:  Due to recent information that has arisen I would like to also add the following.

That while I have stated the previous issues with the nursing profession, during my placements at 3 of the big hospitals in the Western Sydney area I have not experienced this. All of the staff I have encountered have been supporting and encouraging of my chosen nursing level although also recommending I continue my studies on to become an RN.

This does occur but not in all wards/units within hospitals as well as educating staff that no matter what level of nurse you are, you all are a vital element to the Nursing team and in all circumstances are equals.

Following his letter, two nurses, Anne and Sharyon, responded with very encouraging words, explaining how they knew exactly what Brett was talking about and they had his back.

Anne: It was with a sense of despondency that I read Brett’s letter. I am old enough to have trained in a hospital, where we were taught in our training to “stand aside (or up, if you were seated) for anything in white”. This, of course, meant the doctors and RNs. With the advent of nurses training in universities, the status and pay of nurses rose, something I applauded. Sadly, many of my hospital-trained colleagues bemoaned and resented the new “uni grads”, claiming they didn’t have enough hands-on experience. And now, all those years later, I read that ENs are being told “TAFE isn’t as good as university”. Have we not moved on at all?

It would be so refreshing if all of us who work in the health care industry, regardless of our positions, would recognise that we all have a valuable part to play, and that what motivates us to work in health is wanting to improve outcomes for our patients. Could we not have the same care and respect for our colleagues? Or are we doomed for ever to partake in this destructive horizontal violence? Surely we are better than this.

Sharyon: I would like to congratulate Brett for standing up for us Enrolled Nurses!

This gentleman has the true makings of an excellent nurse because he cares but unfortunately he has already encountered the disrespect for Enrolled Nurses… so early in his upcoming career.

Brett, I have been an Enrolled Nurse for over 30 years. Throughout those years I believe I have gained the respect of the majority of my peers, from Doctors to Registered Nurses and other ENs.

However a few years ago during an education day in theatre, the Educator (who was an RN) was talking about what to do in a cardiac arrest situation. She continued to go on and say “During this process don’t forget about the family… you can always send out an unskilled worker like the Enrolled Nurse.

You could have heard a pin drop! It was distasteful, demoralizing and totally unprofessional. If we are so “unskilled”, then how can we deal with the family? But that’s just it. We can do it because we care, we are bedside nurses and we are the ones that hold the hand of the ones that need us.

I have never been ashamed of this. I have been told many times over the years that I should become an RN. I have refused because I know I make a difference in my patient’s lives as a bedside nurse. It has never been about the money for me.

As for the “TAFE versus University,” let me say that as Enrolled Nurses we are expected to teach the new grads. We need to be recognized.

So Brett, I am so proud of you for standing up. You, like I have, will gain so much knowledge being an Enrolled Nurse. Believe in yourself to make a difference, if your life takes you onto being an RN then you will have the grounding of what counts in a patients journey.

Good Luck Brett, you will make a difference in people’s lives. Enjoy your nursing journey. You will make a difference of that I am certain.

What an incredible act of solidarity! And not at all surprising from nurses who show they have so much love to give for their fellow nurses as well as their patients. Thank you to Brett, Anne and Sharyon for writing to The Lamp.

Have you experienced disrespect as a nurse or midwife? We’d like to share your story and any advice you have to give: nurseuncut@nswnma.asn.au

9 COMMENTS

  1. As a 3rd year student RN, I can honestly say that from what I’ve observed, ENs are some of the most skilled and knowledgeable nurses I have encountered. I’m not the only one to say that they’re often our go-to when on clinical placement because they’re highly competent & approachable. Personally, I think all aspiring nurses should have the thorough practical training that ENs receive & then go on to do 2 years at uni for their degree. The theory of uni is important, but it’s true, we don’t get nearly enough hands on training via uni .. ENs are streets ahead.

    • Deb I couldn’t agree more.
      I am a 2rd yr student RN, and the EN’s I’ve encountered are inspirational, approachable, HIGHLY skilled, and appear to have a somewhat better rapport with patients.
      I do also agree with the training you mentioned.
      Great article!

  2. I have worked my way from an ain through to an RN this has been a difficult and sometimes confronting road, however I would never change it, i have learnt along the way that respect is earnt it is not a given and our own recognition of where our scope begins and ends is often a key to a smoother work environment

  3. I have been an EN for 15 years, I have been bullied by RN’s and pressured to complete my RN which I have finally done, only to do the exact same work I was doing as an EN!… for not much more pay! The discrimination by RNs toward ENs was what drove me to obtain my degree so that I could advocate for ENs. Which I intend on doing!

  4. I am an RN. My daughter is an EN. It does not matter what qualifications you have. If you are good nurse that is what matters. A patient doesn’t care what your qualification is. They care if you are taking good care of them. I would rather have a caring and kind nurse taking care of me or my family. There are very few skills that EN are not able to obtain. Love ENs. Supportive, caring, skilled. What more could I ask for?

  5. As an EN who is undertaking further study to become an RN, I was horrified when one of my lecturers told my class that EN’s are not health professionals, they are not equals in patient care and they are not recognised by AHPRA. I tried to challenge the lecturer on her misconception and was very quickly told that to be counted and equal you need a bachelors degree, nothing else counts. It nearly made me want to throw my studies in there and then so as to not become a “professional” if that is what it took to become a professional, but I realised that I needed to become a “professional” so that I can work from the inside to change the perception. The unit I work on there is only 3 EN’s at present, and one EN that has recently become an RN. The most professional, knowledgeable and recognised for excellence in patient care is a 25+ year EN who despite many prompts to move to further study, has never wanted to make the move. I greatly respect him, because he has taught me many many things in our short time as work mates and he will always be one of the “type” of nurses that I strive to be as I move forward in my nursing career

  6. So proud of your courage Brett to stand up for the EENs. Many a times i have tried.
    As having 30 years experience as a Surgical/Medical EN/EEN I find that i get more respect from the Doctors than i do any RN.
    The rules consistantly change for EENs by management, then altered per shift by the IC RNs when management go home. After years of picking up patients from theatre and ED, i am no longer allowed, due to PCA checks in OT, even though i have been accredited for PCAs, I am unsure why ED. Then when extra busy i get sent to pick up patients from OT with PCA by IC RN, not to mention we EENs are allowed to care on the wards for PCA patients and do the PCA drug check for refills on the ward. I was told by one RN that if i wanted the respnsability of picking up PCA patients i should become an RN. FUNNY as I have been a nurse for 20+ years more than her.
    Also I recently got told by a new grad that i should be more organized to give handover, because i asked her to wait while i toileted a patient. Gosh the number if new grads i have ‘shown the ropes too over the years’, although i told my NUM years ago that i wasn’t qualified to educate RNs, I was told we are all educaters.
    Many a new grad RN thanked me for supporting them, only to forget a few years later when they were more experienced they looked down on me.
    As for ED patient collection, well i often get redeployed there by the AHM and have done mant times over the years during trauma cases.
    During these recent EN changes over the past couple of years, i have completed my RN training, however I am still employed as an EEN for a few reasons.
    I am not on the same ward at the moment. So I have chosen to turned down some new grad positions while waiting patiently with faith.
    I didn’t battle through my studies while working as a FT EEN to take on any position. I would like to chose my ward of interest, in a town that supports my social interests.
    After all the battling disrespect and bullying i endured as an EEN I don’t know that I want to be a nurse any more. However my patience has paid off and i hope my upcoming RN role can show me once again why i become a nurse.
    After attending my most recent union meeting, I left thinking: HOW CAN WE EXPECT HELP FROM THE UNION IF WE CAN’T HELP AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER FIRST AND FOREMOST.

  7. Having trained many years ago as an EN via hospital based training and later RN training at university, I totally appreciate the centiments Brett expresses. The unique skills of nurses regardless of the level of training should be respected and appreciated by all, particularly from within the profession.

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