“You’re not a social worker”

Please refer to my disclaimer before reading any of my Nurse Boo categorised pos

“You’re not a social worker.”

“You have to be a nurse and a social worker in this job”

….Two very contrasting statements relating to the same thing. Both things I was told by nurses.

As a student nurse on placement your mentors and the nurses that you work with as part of a team become your everything. You are always listening, always watching, always comparing, always noting and always trying to remember… Sometimes there is questioning. Was that the right way to handle that? That’s not what they told us in uni? I’ve seen another nurse on the same ward do the same thing differently? But perhaps the most important one is – Would I have done it or handled it that way? That’s me, the person I know I am, the person who is still learning this profession but also knows her own morals and stance on things and the lessons that I have learnt along the way. Behind every ounce of my inexperience in being a nurse there are also the ounces of compassion, patience, emotional intelligence, and the memories of my own personal experiences that are engrained on my mind. Sometimes those things are what drive a person’s judgement, and I assume what drives different people to handle the same situation very differently.

The above quotes were said to me by different nurses in two very different clinical settings. You could therefore say that each one was right to say that within their own field of nursing.

Whilst I am fully aware that I am training to be a nurse and not a social worker, there are times when someone in your care requires more than just a dressing change or a glass of water or an injection given. Sometimes they need you to listen, to understand a situation or circumstance that you have ever experienced yourself, and for you to advocate for them. The following statements from the NMC code – the code in which all nurse must abide by are the basis of my rationale for how I acted in this situation

‘1.1 treat people with kindness, respect and compassion.’

‘2.6 recognise when people are anxious or in distress and respond compassionately and politely.’

‘3.4 act as an advocate for the vulnerable, challenging poor practice and discriminatory attitudes and behaviour relating to their care.’ (NMC, 2015)

There are also very blurred lines between extending your role into so-called social working and adhering to the safeguarding element of your nurses’ role. Is that trying to be a social worker or just being a nurse who bothers to go the extra mile for you? or is it just a nurse doing the job they are supposed to do?

I was told very abruptly by a nurse in front of patients that I am ‘not a social worker’ and that I am ‘just a student nurse’ that I am, a student who will one day become a ‘real’ nurse and a student nurse in the very same shoes that you and every other nurse too were once in. There are boundaries that have to be set very firmly in nursing, I believe most nurses are empaths – that’s what makes them want and able to do this job, and I understand that its incredibly important to also learn to detach.

I was admitting a patient for a procedure. She had arrived with her teenage daughter in a wheelchair who had been quite distressed and was crying. Through what I can only describe as ‘Chinese whispers’ I was told by the receptionist, that the daughter was distressed because she didn’t want to be left and wanted to go into the procedure room with her mother. I had been asked to admit this patient but not told that another nurse had already come along to admit her and had since left the area. That’s Chinese whispers for you – sometimes not the whole story is told. I offered some comfort and reassurance to the mother and daughter and told them I would admit them. I took TIME to listen to them. I explained that the daughter would not be able to go in the room, to which she completely understood and consented to being ok with. Just to calm the situation and take the pair out of the waiting room where there were several other patients, I took the daughter to just outside the admission room. I also went and told my mentor the situation and to check it was ok to take the daughter to this point, she consented. As I am wheeling the wheel chair another nurse shouts at me down the corridor – ‘Does your mentor know what you are doing’ – ‘erm, yes, I just spoke to here.’ – ‘She can’t go in the room with her – do you even know what you are doing’ – I apologised to the patients on her behalf. After some further shouting she then ran off to my mentor to tell her she needed to take over from me. My mentor could see that I was doing fine, and I explained everything, with input from the mother and daughter. Whilst yes there was something not quite right about the pair, it was my judgement made that they had a fair chance to explain and have the treatment that they had been expecting and not just dismissed or being ‘difficult’. It later transpired that the patient had extremely high blood pressure and an incident the previous week that would impact her having this procedure at this time. In fact, it was the daughter that bought this to my attention and was able to better explain it than her mother, so it was beneficial having her there.

Apparently, that day I tried to ‘play’ the role of social worker. Personally, I think I was just doing what any nurse should do. Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly capable of admitting when I am wrong and remaining under guidance, but I wouldn’t take back one minute of that situation. All too often in the production line that the hospital can become in various settings, sometimes there is a human element that is forgotten. It’s the element of nursing which I value the most and the one that I hope no amount of clouding or bad days makes me forget. No, I am not a social worker – I’m a nurse of the future, and making people comfortable, keeping them informed and giving them the space to explain is a BIG PART of the nurses role, as well as that of a social worker.

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