Blog - Why I Chose to Become a Nurse in 2020
Rhian Hunter, 1st year - Master of Nursing; NU1 Class Rep:
With this blog I will show readers what professional identity is, my inspiration for becoming a nurse, and how that inspiration feeds into my burgeoning professional identity and the kind of nurse I intend to be – at present I am in my first year of the MNurse programme at QMU, Edinburgh.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2015) sets out the standards of behaviour and conduct required of its members in The Code. These standards regulate a nurse’s professionalism but professional identity goes beyond that and must be understood if we are to adhere to professional standards. “Professional identity is defined as one’s professional self-concept based on attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and experiences” (Schein 1978;Ibarra 1999,both cited in Slay and Smith 2011,p. 85).However, at the start of our professional career often our only references upon which to draw on are our personal experiences (Esterhuizen 2019). By necessity we must reflect on our autobiographies to identify how our experiences have shaped our beliefs, attributes and values and to dissect what meaning we have attached to our experiences and why.
We use the rich resource that is personal experience to identify skills and knowledge that we already have from other roles that can lay the foundation to our professional identity. Through reflection we may consider how identity is visible, and where identity and roles (for example student, manager, carer) diverge. I consider that different roles require different identities and that as my professional experience grows so my professional identity will evolve into one clearly identifiable aspect of who I am. I do not believe, however, it will ever be a fully discrete part of me as our personal and professional identities are linked and an experience that influences one will likely influence the other (Esterhuizen 2019).
My inspiration to become a nurse never arrived as a light-bulb moment. It was an accumulation of events over my life history that resonated with me, that built my values or strengthened those I already held. The timing of becoming a nurse was a little different. I grew up with the maxim “it’s nice to be nice” and parents that changed the world in small but meaningful ways, yet they believed you do not shout about what you are doing because you are doing what everyone should do. When I reflect more deeply on my inspiration, a key quality that jumps out at me is the advocacy I was involved with during multiple occasions as a healthcare assistant in a community pharmacy. There were further instances of advocacy when looking after a family memberat the end of their life and more generally throughout my life. Whether it is a person who has recently migrated to this country and is struggling to access appropriate care despite experiencing significant pain or a friend who was pushed out of their job when their child developed cancer, I enjoy helping people advocate for themselves and advocating on their behalf. I am good at listening, seeking out information, discussing options and supporting a person to find the right choice for them no matter how hands-on or hands-off I have to be. Helping someone champion themselves is one of life’s privileges and one both I and the NMC (nd) care very much about.
Another value I hold in high regard is resilience. In the past, I always thought I had some resilience but that I could do with more, it was something I admired all the more because I thought I “lacked” it. As I get older I realise I have plenty of it and what I could strengthen is my emotional regulation specifically. Why did I apply for nursing in 2020 at the age of 30? Because after spending months diving in Southeast Asia, acting as a teaching assistant, a dive buddy and a student, often with poorly-maintained rental gear (I have the dive logs to prove it!), I realised that the “coolness under pressure” and level-headedness that I knew I had was down to the fact that I have faith in myself built after years of getting through tough times and plenty of urgent situations. That, in fact, I have plenty of resilience. What I had to work on, and am actively working on, is my emotional regulation in order to support my emotional resilience even further. As soon as I realised that, I knew that 2020 was the time to “become” a nurse.
Nurses need to be emotionally intelligent and resilient (McCormack and McCance 2017; NMC 2018) in order to provide the compassionate, person-centred care that every everyone is due. I believe I have a good grounding in emotional intelligence, especially empathy, through the building and evolution of my personal relationships and through previous jobs. My resilience has been built through many personal events too private to share in a blog.
However, there is an overlap between the two above qualities that involves emotional self-regulation where I have room to improve. The link between health and emotion is known and the need to always act in a compassionate and caring manner, not just with patients but even in interactions within care environment teams (Health Workforce, Leadership And Service Reform Directorate 2013;Peate 2019),may lead to compassion fatigue or other health problems (Bendelow 2009; Lister etal. 2020). Through actions such as personal reflection, mindfulness, self-learning around emotional wellbeing and, soon, reflective practice in practice learning environments I am building my skills around emotional self-regulation and have seen the evidence on a few occasions recently. The most noticeable relates to a friend who had died during the Covid-19 lockdown and so I had had to change how I grieve. Lately, I met a mutual acquaintance for a memorial breakfast and was surprised at how mindfulness and reflection added a more nuanced level of catharsis to the experience compared to previous funerals and memorials.
Through experience our personal knowledge develops (Esterhuizen 2019) and when embarking on our careers we often draw on our personal autobiography as we lack the professional “landmarks” or experiences to rely on. With my bank of personal knowledge and a reflective approach to both theory and practical learning I will one day be a competent, compassionate and resilient advocate and nurse for persons receiving care.
List of References
BENDELOW, G., 2009. Health, emotion and the body. Cambridge: Polity Press.
ESTERHUIZEN, P., 2019. Reflective practice in nursing. 4th ed. London: Learning Matters. Transforming Nursing Practice.
HEALTH WORKFORCE, LEADERSHIP AND SERVICE REFORM DIRECTORATE., 2013. Everyone matters: 2020 workforce vision [online]. P. 3. [viewed 25 October 2020]. Scottish Government: Publications. Available from:
LISTER, S., HOFLAND, J. and GRAFTON, H., eds. 2020. The Royal Marsden manual of clinical nursing procedures. 10th ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
MCCORMACK, B. and MCCANCE, T., eds. 2017. Person-centred practice in nursing and health care: theory and practice. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
NURSING AND MIDWIFERY COUNCIL., 2015. The code [online]. Nursing and Midwifery Council. [viewed 24 October 2020]. Available from:
NURSING AND MIDWIFERY COUNCIL., 2018. Future nurses: standards of proficiency for registered nurses [online]. Nursing and Midwifery Council. [viewed 24 October 2020]. Available from:
NURSING AND MIDWIFERY COUNCIL., [no date].Enabling professionalism in nursing and midwifery practice [online]. [viewed 24 October 2020]. Available from:
PEATE, I., ed. 2019. Alexander’s nursing practice: hospital and home. 5thed. London: Elsevier.
SLAY, H. S. and SMITH, D. A., 2011. Professional identity construction: Using narrative to understand the negotiation of professional and stigmatized cultural identities. Human Relations. January, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 85–107.