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If you can't be enthusiastic, do something else

The recent news that there are 27% more nurses leaving the register than joining it, must raise alarm bells for not just the profession but for health and care services across the board.

But we must make sure that we balance the negative doom mongering about the plight of nursing with providing the positive attitudes that are so indispensible to frontline care.

Being keen and kind in our work must surely be at the heart of what we do and why we do it. Argue with me if you can, if you dare – but having the energy to take adversity in your stride instead of getting maudlin about Brexit, about revalidation, about pressure and workload, is not about naivety, it’s about self respect.

It may be controversial but when talking about the current plight of our profession, I always come back one thing: no one likes a whinger.

I am often confronted with a good deal of cynicism and frustration. At times I interact with colleagues who clearly don’t enjoy their work anymore and are blaming systems, organisations, politicians, unfairness and often a wide range of other individuals for this.

From my many years as a mental health practitioner, therapist and clinician, I will always subscribe to the view that we must ‘own’ responsibility in our response to adversity and develop an attitude of ‘taking control and rising above challenge or conflict’.

As was famously said by journalist Christina Patterson in her 2011 talk ‘Care to be Nurse’: 'If you can’t get beyond feeling negative, do something else'. I am so often recommending nurses listen to this humbling, harrowing and perversely inspiring emotional description of Christina’s experience as a breast cancer patient. I suggest you really should invest the 15 minutes to hear her story.

Being proud and having a drive and determination to rise above the ineptitudes, inadequacies and insufficiencies we must endure, requires confidence and grit.

We must create a personal narrative that can promote personal belief in not just who we are but what we do and how we do it – I recommend enthusiasm as second only to kindness as the critical ingredients to making sure pride not plight is the sustaining image for nurses.

George Coxon is a qualified mental health nurse as well as a member of the Nursing In Practice advisory board, and the owner and director of Pottles Court and Summercourt Care Homes.