13 May 2010

Nurses: Respect for a Profession

There was never gonna be any chance, fresh out of high school as I was oh-so-many years ago, that I would even consider a career in Nursing. For starters, as a kid I had too many bad-needle experiences – i.e. with nurses na mabigat ang kamay – to even contemplate a career in the very place these experiences happened.

In those days, of course, more often than not, men did not go into Nursing. They went into Medicine or into Engineering, and Nursing was left pretty much for the girls to do. The male nurse was a rare and elusive specie.

Perhaps the most telling reason why a Nursing career was never in the works for me was because – especially when I was young – I could be remarkably squeamish at the sight of blood. Oh, I could hold my dinner in; but I would cringe inside at the sight of it, every muscle turning to marsh mallow!

I was repulsed even by the sight of Mom cleaning fish from the market. I am not as squeamish now as I used to be, but I still manage to cringe at the sight of blood or an open wound. In another of life’s inexplicable contradictions, excepting when it’s blood, I actually count red among my favorite colors...

But those nurses I knew at the Base Hospital when I was growing up, I always looked up to... That was unless I was being asked to pull my shorts down for a quick three-point play with those menacing-looking needles...

Ouch...!!! Aray...!!! Araguy...!!!

They always looked serene – almost angelic – in their immaculate whites! While the so-called attendants were the kindred souls who everyone – both patients and bantay – gossiped and joked with, the nurses seemed well-placed above human foibles. Aloof but never haughty... Authoritative but never domineering... Deferential to doctors but never subservient...

A nurse – at least those I knew from my experiences in a military hospital – commanded instant respect without even needing to utter one single word. All she needed to do was to walk serenely into a ward...

Now that we have a Nursing school, I am uplifted by the knowledge that the traits and virtues I used to admire so much from a distance in the nurses I knew during my youth are being handed down – in our school, at the very least – to aspiring nurses by their mentors.

It never ceases to amaze me how these young Nursing students can leave their hospital duty stations late the previous night; work till the wee hours of the morning on their reports; grab an hour or two of shuteye; and still, somehow, manage to come to school early the next morning looking as fresh as the mountain dew in their spotless whites and none the worse for wear.

Of course, when I chance upon the occasional burarâ freshman or sophomore sa canteen na bikangkang pa umupô, I make it a point to tell either Dean Cora Bacong or Annie Urbi about it...

It does not take much for the youngsters to shape up, the two tell me. Hinahabol pa raw nila sa Rob if they spot any of their wards na gagaslaw-gaslaw or wearing the uniform shabbily...

I know these students are sometimes misunderstood, even by their peers. If they tend to be clannish, that is because many of the things they need to do as part of their training, they need to do communally with fellow Nursing students.

If they do not appear to have time to do what other teenage kids do in a social sense, that is because, indeed, their every waking moment is eaten up by hospital duty... or making reports... or attending lectures and seminars... or doing community work...

And if they appear aloof and unwilling to participate in the usual rowdiness one finds in kids their age, it is because they need to be that way when they finally get immersed in a workplace where that air of detachment, that serenity, that authoritative mystique may actually spell the difference in a life-or-death situation.

If and when they pass through the sieve and make it through to graduation, there is still the licensure examination to deal with. That is, I was told by some Nursing department heads over lunch one day, not at all a stroll in the park.

Indeed, after attempting to lamely go through a sample test shown to me by a former player who recently graduated with a BSN degree, I can now understand what they meant. An Anatomy question can be followed by one involving Psychology... or Pharmacy... or, believe me you, the legalities playing in the workplace.

The questions are situational; unlike, say, a Mathematics question for which there is a definitive answer. In some cases – I am told – all the choices for some questions can seem deceivingly correct, the unwary examinee likely to be duped by that wily instruction “Choose the best answer.”

Duhhh....!!! Do they want nurses or don’t they...??? But then again – I am told – that is just the way it goes, even with the equivalent examinations in the States and other countries where not just a few of our fresh graduates may eventually end up working.

Kayâ nga baga I went into East Asian Studies... Bukod sa walang dugô, walâ rin Board... And plenty of time for football...!!!

But hats off to these young men and women – and applause for their mentors – who go through so much to be able to earn that title which only those of a chosen ilk will ever carry: Nurse...

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