Nurses are amazing

Ask Claire what she wishes more people knew about nursing and she’ll simply tell you – “the job that nurses do is amazing.”

“There’s a big misconception around primary care nurses; that they just sit around drinking tea all day, but it’s really not the case.” Claire believes that nursing is a tough profession, and often people may forget that. She says it takes time to gain the knowledge required to be a good nurse.

As well as knowledge, there are also key qualities that make up a good nurse. The ones most important to Claire are confidence, competence and empathy. “You have to have that empathy for the other person. Anyone could come through your door, you don’t know what they’ve been through, so it’s really important to have that caring nature to be able to handle anything,” she says.

Claire says balance is also key – being a nurse is much like being a jack of all trades in a way. As a nurse, you’re doing so many different things and treating patients holistically.

Building the foundations

Claire – who has worked as a primary nurse – is also a blogger and trans health educator. So, when it comes to gaining knowledge in the respiratory field, she knows that there’s only so much you can take from training. “There’s only so much that training can teach you,” she explains. “I did the COPD and asthma courses but when it comes to the rest of it, you have to do your own research; read magazines and journals, go to conferences and events.”

Knowing that you can learn from your patient is important too. “Every patient is different in how they manage their condition, so being able to learn from them can help massively too.”

“Every patient is different in how they manage their condition, so being able to learn from them can help massively too.”

Knowledge goes hand in hand with experience, too. So when you’re faced with a challenge such as a pandemic, you can use that knowledge to face new challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic meant Claire and her team had to reduce clinics, to protect vulnerable patients and reduce their risk of infection. But it’s not just nurses who adapted, patients did too. “We were managing the best way we could to protect our patients. As time went on, we found patients were taking more responsibility, for instance with things like wound management.”

Claire recalls having to do assessments over the phone, which was quite tough. The challenge taught her vital lessons to adapt and overcome.

Staying curious

Claire says picking up on things that no one else has noticed and being able to help a patient is really rewarding. “There was one patient I had who came in for wound care but was struggling with breathlessness. I knew it wasn’t normal and did a bit of digging and found she was overdoing it on some of her medication,” she tells us. “It was a nice feeling to be able to work that out and the next time I saw her she was much better.”

Claire also remembers a conversation with her dentist, which really resonated with her and showed what it meant to be a good healthcare professional. “The day you know it all, is the day you’ve failed as a healthcare professional. That’s what he said to me. He told me you should constantly be questioning yourself and asking for advice.”

Being kind to yourself

Claire left school with low confidence and it was quite late when she started her nursing career. She worked as a Healthcare Assistant, then decided to give nursing a go and hasn’t looked back. “Just qualifying was the proudest moment,” Claire explains. “I was really proud. That first day I put my blues on for the first time was amazing.”

But if she had one piece of advice for anyone starting out, it’s to be kind to yourself. “Be kind to yourself 100%. University just doesn’t prepare you to be a nurse, it just gives you the foundations, that initial knowledge. The rest of the work is when you are a nurse,” Claire says.

She remembers her first eight months of being a primary care nurse were by far the hardest, where she felt she didn’t know enough. “My confidence took a knock and I started doubting myself,” she tells us. “But that’s normal, from what I’ve seen. You’re not going to know everything and it’s remembering to be kind to yourself.”

Making a difference

Claire has also done a lot of work within the NHS around trans visibility and understanding. As a primary care nurse, when she had her very first transgender patient, she’d never thought about healthcare for trans people before. “I wanted to develop my knowledge and do more to bring more understanding around transgender healthcare into primary care. But it’s finding that education and training that is so difficult. There’s just nothing out there,” she explains. Claire has taken it upon herself to bring more awareness around trans visibility. “I’ve started to create my own webinars and leaflets to help people understand and create change.”

And the favourite part of Claire’s job? “Knowing you’ve made a difference.”

Claire's top picks

Books or TV?

TV – I’m a very visual person.

Tea or Coffee?

Tea, always. I like a milky coffee, or an iced coffee in the afternoon but it’s mainly tea.

Early, late or night shift?

Early, definitely – get it out of the way and then have the rest of the day.

On the ward, in practice or out in the community?

In the practice, or community. I had a management placement in the community, and it was amazing. I was really torn between doing community and GP!

Summer or winter?

I love winter. I love the snow and being cold (even though I will always moan about it).

Related stories

Everyone's Talking About

Mobile respiratory clinics: a pioneering outreach programme

Read article
Everyone's Talking About

Reflections on the changing role of nurses

Read article
Everyone's Talking About

Leadership and management: what’s the difference?

Read article
Everyone's Talking About

Transitioning from clinical practice into research: A nurse’s view

Read article
Everyone's Talking About

Reflective practice, putting it into perspective

Read article
Everyone's Talking About

Reflections on the role and value of pharmacists in integrated respiratory care

Read article
UK-RES-2201220 August 2022