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Who am I? Who are you?

When I was little growing up I never felt that my life was anything special. The one thing that sticks in my mind is visiting my Nan – she lived up the road next door to her brother.

Now it didn't seem unusual to me that Nan lived in a static caravan on a site, and Uncle Freddy and his family all lived in static vans in the yard next door. I remember one time there was a local community weekend, and my family were there working on the fairground rides. Freddy and his family still made a living out of the fairground life with swing boats, a carousel and the helter-skelter.

This was the first time that I realised that this lifestyle might be slightly different to the rest of my classmates.

Now, I know you are thinking, "What has any of this got to do with nursing?" "Nothing" is the true answer, but it provides you with a bit of background to my situation. For many years I never had an issue with identity, I knew who I was and where I was from. But now, having my own family, I have started questioning my roots.

After I became a nurse and then completed my school nursing degree, I needed to find permanent, fulltime employment, so I took a position 110 miles away from where I lived with my family, a position I was glad to take due to necessity.

I hear you asking again, "What has this got to do with my identity?" Well people are funny, they judge you on what job you have, what colour your skin is, how old you are, where you live or your background. Now, my job puts me into contact with many different people with different backgrounds and experiences. I always try to treat people in the best possible way whatever their background, and try not to be judgmental, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Taking this new job was a test of all my preconceived ideas about education, wealth, lifestyle and employment. Suddenly I was  living away from home five days a week, only seeing my family at the weekends. I was living in a very small, two-berth caravan. I was spending many hours in child protection meetings with other professionals, making decisions and looking after people in need of help, while my family were left to fend for themselves. I found myself sitting around the conference table assessing the other professionals as well as the families. I didn't have any prejudicial views about the people I was looking at, but instead turned inwards and started to question myself – in other words, I found that I wasn't judging others, but in fact judging myself, questioning who I was, where I came from, and whether I was in a position to be passing comment on others when my family were 110 miles away?

I now have a job closer to home, and more importantly I have my family around me. Unfortunately I still do not know if I am a professional, a father, a gypsy or what? I question myself everyday and still have not found an answer! Perhaps I am a bit of everything moulded into one person, in the same way that the families I work with are a result of their past and current lives and experiences.

It is important to be able to throw out any preconceptions when dealing with any clients and treat each new encounter as a fresh experience with new outcomes. It should be remembered that like us each client is a result of their upbringing and environment, and we, as professionals, are in a position to help and guide, not judge and criticise.