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: firstname.lastname@example.org