For International Nurses Day observed worldwide on 12 May in 2020 Year of the Nurse & Midwife, Jacob Roberts MACN wants to acknowledge that nurses have the power to lead and bring about change even in the face of adversity as severe as COVID-19.
Jacob, whose area of expertise is Emergency Nursing, works as a Clinical Nurse Educator at Tasmania Health Service, talked to the Australian College of Nursing about his year so far and what it means to be a nurse in these unusual times.
“We’ve all been in it together, I would say. For me as an individual, becoming a recent parent has really shaped my perspective on a lot of things that are happening currently, not just locally but nationally and globally. It has been quite a challenging year so far; the bushfires feel almost like a lifetime ago! But for me, it does always act as a reminder that as nurses, we are vulnerable, we are human, and it’s not just ourselves we put out there, the lives of our loved ones are also compromised,” says Jacob, adding, “But you know, that’s part of the job.”
On what made Jacob choose nursing as a career path, he says, “I think it was my experience with my personal health but also the experiences that my loved ones have had. The little things that nurses did for them – from fluffing their pillows or getting them that cup of tea – had a big impact and I found that I wanted to share in that.”
For Jacob, the humility the profession has given him has been invaluable. “The trust that people give you when you’re with them in their darkest, scariest, most emotionally charged moments is a humbling experience. To be there front and centre – through diagnoses, traumas and births to palliation – I appreciate and am respectful that I can be present and share and assist in those moments.”
Jacob adds, “I also love the versatility of having been able to go through various roles, departments and positions through nursing.”
In his current role, Jacob’s responsibility is to liaise with students and educational providers and organise practical placements. “A lot of their studies and pathways have been impacted, so understandably there’s a lot of anxiety for them as well as the educational providers. So right now, it’s about trying to keep the current ones we have with us on placement, healthy and focusing on nurturing them and promoting their ongoing learning because the day-to-day activities have to go on. With our new K-Block section of the Royal Hobart Hospital opening and with the obvious ongoing public health pandemic, we can look at these with a silver lining as opportunities for unique learning and development experiences.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also means that nurses will be celebrating International Nurses Day a little differently this year. “Of course, we can’t celebrate how we normally would,” says Jacob. “So, I’ve suggested reaching out to colleagues who are not necessarily in our area. I know that the Emergency Department staff in Royal Hobart Hospital reached out to their colleagues at North West who have been going through a particularly tough time. And they sent them doughnuts, sweets and cards for them to get through it. I thought we could do something similar as an Educator team and also encourage everyone to send out an email to a nurse they admire or who they find inspiring to show their appreciation for them.”
The students have definitely shown appreciation for the hard work Jacob and his peers have been putting in for them. “It’s been so gratifying to get positive feedback from our students. They’re going through some anxious times and they have told me that they really appreciate the support they have received from staff who are still prioritizing student learning and giving them the time, energy and patience they need right now.”
Jacob also reminds nurses to look after themselves and each other. “We have to stick together and stay strong. Preserve some of your energy for your own physical and mental well-being and that of your loved ones. That’s vital,” he concludes.