bg-country-switch bg-country-switch

From bedside to business: tips (and tales) from a wound nurse

by Sara Ford


Bedside training is the best training. We cannot afford to distance ourselves from this fact.
In just a few days, I will turn 60. How time flies! I have spent the last 40 working to care for others and I wouldn’t change a minute of it. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Someone fortunate enough to be part of so many peoples’ lives at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. It is a sacred space, and it has been a privilege to be part of it. I will never take those moments for granted.

Over those four decades, however, I have seen many nurses come and go...myself included. They were jaded by the politics of the health system, the long hours, and the lack of appreciation.

As we gear up to see the new generation of nurses entering this rewarding (albeit challenging) field of work at such a dynamic time, I hope they are ready for the exciting, scary, challenging but ultimately fulfilling time that lies ahead.

I encourage them to embrace every bedside moment to learn the best of what this profession has to offer. These are my wishes for the next wave of nurses.

Get a bachelors in bedside education

Bedside training is the best training. As we work to prepare Nurse2020 -- the next generation of nurses around the world-- we cannot afford to distance ourselves from this fact.

Now, with university-based training, so many nurses today struggle to get the basic bedside experiences they need. I wholeheartedly agree that nursing must be a degree course, but I would like to see it based in the hospitals with blocks away to attend university or courses accessed online. What lacks is the exposure to the variety of different day-to-day challenges and opportunities to develop practical skills. It is those first years of hands on practical nursing – where you can learn so much. In those early years, you learn to listen to your patients when they tell you they are in pain or interpret the signs when something is wrong.

Today’s training encompasses much more technical information. Nurses often face the risk of being overwhelmed with information and losing sight of the patient. At the end of the day, paperwork and technologies cannot replace the true technicians behind them.

Have a strong stomach. Keep a cool head.

I will never look at a lunch box the same way again.

During my time in the surgical ward, I can distinctly remember having to drain a large abscess. The only container large enough to hold all the fluid was a lunch box nearby.

A strong stomach and a good sense of humour is a difficult balance to strike, but nurses do it.

In nursing, you often find yourself in a position where it is essential that you manage the situation, stay calm, think clearly, and take the essential first steps to save a life. Nursing is varied, it is complex, and even better, it is unpredictable. Every day is different and offers so many opportunities for growth and development in areas that mean the most to you.

Complacency is not an option when patients put their lives in your hands and so many things can (and often do) go wrong.

Nursing is so many things. It is clinical, practical, technical, inspirational, emotional, and yes, at times it can be a little bit gross.

Don’t stop saying thank you

I didn’t realize until I got out of nursing that my colleagues were all so busy and drained they had forgotten the little things.

Say thank you to your colleagues, to your superiors, to your employees, to your partners, to doctors, to nurses, to clinicians, to families and most importantly to your patients.

Always remember nurses are part of a team that must appreciate each other and value the effort we all put in every day.

That’s it. Just say thank you. We could probably keep a few more nurses this way.Being a part of someone’s life when they are at their most vulnerable is a privilege. You must respect it and embrace it.

Never change your mission

It was nearly 40 years ago that I witnessed my first patient pass away. Twenty years ago, I started my first job in healthcare sales. To this day, I still get calls from nurses who are struggling to heal wounds.

I am still a nurse. It’s more than just a job. For me, it’s who I am.

My role as a clinical educator was a natural progression for me. I still identify what wounds need and what is best for the patient, regardless of product name or price. While in sales, I worked across many hospitals and I felt as though I could help more people, more effectively. It allowed me to help clinicians to provide the best products for their patients’ needs and in doing so improving their working day.

Every day, I still feel I’m helping people. Today, I help to facilitate healing for people with wounds.

I specifically remember the first time one of my patients died and I cared for them. I came home and my friends were headed on a holiday from uni. They had no idea what I had just gone through.

At the end of that day, I came out with an awareness of the important and privileged role I play in a people’s lives every day. It is those experiences that have shaped me to be the person I am today. Not too many professions can do that.