I recently went to the funeral of someone I had nursed and as I went into the church I was asked “Are you friend or family?” this was just to establish where I should sit. I heard myself reply that I was just a nurse who had cared for the deceased as I slid into the pew nearest the back. I was there to pay my respects but did not want to intrude on this intimate occasion too much.
I knew this person well, during assessment we had discussed the intricacies if their life. Mental health nursing never ceases to amaze me that we start a few minutes after meeting someone to adopt a warts and all approach to questions with an expectation that those we are chatting with will bear their soul to us. We expect a lot, I know we need this to aid formulating and plan treatment but we do expect a lot.
We sang hymns, read prayers and then it was time for the eulogy. Goodness this struck me; this person was so much more than the person I knew. So much more than the life events which had them to mental health services. I have always considered myself to be a clinician who does see the whole person, maybe because as a service user many people over the years haven’t seen me as a whole person. I felt in this moment like I barely knew the person I thought I knew inside out, it was so wonderful to hear about their life.
I wonder do those who care for me when I am service user not nurse see everything about me that makes me? What would they wish they had known if they were listening to my eulogy? I am so much more than my illness, we all are. I am a wife, a mother, a nurse, a Christian, a Sunday school teacher, a friend and I have been a million more things over the years.
This really stuck with me that despite working with someone for a long time I am and will always be just the nurse, and sometimes that is fine but sometimes knowing that little bit more could be key to working with someone on their recovery journey. I’m not even sure how yet but this experience will make me a better nurse. This is only a short blog post but I did want to share this with you because in a moment, this changed the person and the nurse I am. I am just a nurse but that’s ok.