Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Nursing inside and out

Christie Watson
Henley Town Hall

WHEN Christie Watson first saw blood, she fainted, and yet she then went on to have a very fulfilling nursing career.

On Saturday evening she talked not only about her career but her worries for nursing, her love of it, and what it means to be a nurse. It was a serious talk, frightening at times, moving and funny at others.

Christie told stories from her days on the ward and also stories from her experience of other nurses — most significantly the nurse who saved her and her family when her father was dying.

Nursing is the most important job in world, she said, without hesitation or doubt. For a girl who once hated the smell of hospitals, describing them as a cross between swimming pools and something gone off in the fridge, it was a bold statement.

But this event, as is her book, The Language of Kindness, was a celebration of nursing and a cry to help it.

Christie reeled off vital statistics about the current state of nursing. Life as nurse today is hard — not only is one nurse doing the work of five, but they are underpaid and undervalued.

Christie is their voice. To be a nurse, she says, you need the capacity to love strangers, but it seems, after attending Saturday’s event, that no one loves nurses.

It is a modern-day tragedy, highlighted intimately by Christie as she described working on mental health wards, or in paediatric intensive care.

Nurses are needed by everyone — at some point, we will all nurse or be nursed and so it should matter to all of us.

She may have retired from nursing but she is using her writing as a platform to shout out for nurses and she hopes, as she said over and again, that other nurses will tell their stories as well. She is currently the only voice for nurses in literature and it is lonely.

But not for long, hopefully. On Saturday she definitely gained some followers, as the audience left with a warning ringing in their ears. The NHS is struggling, and so are nurses. And Christie, looking out over the audience, unblinking, said we should all be afraid.

It was a frightening end to an enlightening talk, one full of brutal truths and resounding kindness.

Laura Healy

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