People can inspire and encourage us. They can show us what we can be. The authors know a nurse who describes her manner and approach as being ‘shiny’. By this she means that she works to be the most positive and supportive presence possible to her patients, colleagues and service. Our friend is an opposite picture of what we find most unhelpful in receiving a service – negativity, impersonal or even disrespectful attitudes and responses. Our friend has not always found this easy. One of the most difficult situations has been the lack of support from nursing colleagues. Words, attitudes and actions have challenged our friend as they do not resonate with the best values she holds. One of the most difficult comments has been the words of other nurses saying ‘We were once like you. All shiny and sparkly. But you’ll change. The system will knock that out of you. Just see.’ Our friend is quick to respond that whatever they have allowed the system to do to them she won’t allow to happen to her. She also explains that she has been caring for years and has always had this sparkle in her work. Psychologically speaking the comments of her nurse colleagues probably say more about them than about her.
Does this shinier life matter? Yes – it does. It matters because people matter. It is never right for people in pain or vulnerability to receive second rate or sloppy services or workers. People deserve the best we can offer and we can only offer this if we are making the commitment to be the best we can be. Patient or people-centred care will only happen we when all make the commitment to really make the difference. We are either difference makers or we are not. What we would wish for our own loved ones is what we should try to provide in our clinics, communities and wards. One of the authors recently read a paper by an American doctor who spoke about how his practice was transformed when he stopped seeing people as problems and started seeing them as people. He stopped referring to them as bed and room numbers in the hospital in which he worked. He started to speak their names. His naming led to a better relationship with his patients. This better relationship then led to deeper consultations and conversations and the start of co-producing healthy outcomes. Amazing how one little change can lead to a perspective and practice shift.
How does our good friend do all this ‘shiny’ stuff? How does she keep the flame of courage, compassion and commitment burning brightly through the years? She shared with us some of the reasons behind her stance?. To start with there was hope. One of her favourite quotes is from the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. The quote is ‘ Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.’ For her hope and looking for the best is her practice. To work through the fear and look for the light is what she must do. She knows that fear is a door locked from the inside and we must open the door ourselves and step out into possibility. Our friend has a real sense of being able to change things and create the new. This gives her life, despite all the demands and challenges, a hope of what can be and what she can make happen. There is also a heart at the centre of all this that cares deeply for others. This is someone who is there for others and feels their pain. She has a compassion and reaching out that is healing and connecting. Then there is all the hard work she does herself. There is the academic work she undertakes to make sure her patients get the best care. There is the professional development work that she commits herself to in order to improve her skills and knowledge. There is also the inner work she undertakes. This is the reflection, listening and dialogue to make sense of the negative and nurture the positive. This trio – hope, heart and hard work – all add up to a very powerful mixture.
Our friend is an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. She is a call and message to us all. A call to do the inner and outer work. A message that we all have incredible potential and gifts and what happens when we release them. She is not alone. There are many shiny people just like her. These people are the centre and future of the NHS. These nurses, nurse students and other health professionals do not see themselves as anything special – they just want to offer great and kind care. They, like our friend, face grave challenges from forces that would extinguish their compassion, ideals and vision These great people are our jewels and we really have to value and support them all down the line. Our friend said some inspiring words when she knew we were writing this article. She said, ‘Do not try to dull other peoples shine and sparkle. Absorb it, bask in its glow of positivity and become just as bright as they are. We can spread this bright infection everywhere.’
The famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote that ‘People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.’ In 2015 may we all nurture that inner light and support others find and share their light too. For it is from this ‘light from within’ that all good things come.