"When I filled in my CAO application I never knew the amazing journey that I was starting on," says Róisín O’Connell described as the future of nursing
In May 2019, a speech given by student intern at University Hospital Waterford/nursing student at WIT, Róisín O'Connell had an impact on huge number of people - including Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD.
Great to meet you Roisin. Thanks for your advocacy and your commitment to nursing and to our health service— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) May 10, 2019
Róisín explains that the journey to giving her speech started when became an Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) representative upon starting her internship in UHW.
“This was mainly due to the nursing strike. I wanted my classmates to be aware of what was going on in Dublin and to have someone reliable to ask their questions to. Like everything I do I like to give it the best shot I can and so I started completing strike rosters for the internship class to ensure all the girls in my class knew what to do and where. This gathered some attention and members of the INMO Waterford branch asked me to take part in interviews with RTE.”
Subsequently, the INMO’s student and new graduate officer Neal Donohue came to WIT and gave her the opportunity to speak at the Nursing Now Ireland launch in Dublin. Nursing Now, she explains, aim to promote the nurse around the world and show people what nurses really do, and how we change the world every single day.
Róisín was asked to write a piece (which can be read below) describing why she became a nurse and what she feels nursing is like for her in Ireland today.
“At this event I got to meet some of the most influential people in the Nursing profession. The Nursing Now event celebrated nurses and I was privileged to be part of the launch,” she recalls.
At this event her speech moved many people. “Some senior nurses came up to me and said ‘it reminded them of why they became a nurse’ and they thanked me for helping them realise that.
The president of the INMO then invited Róisín to the centenary Annual Delegates Conference in Meath to address the delegates, introducing her to the podium as "the future of nursing". Róisín again gave her speech, and received a standing ovation from all the delegates at the conference.
“I also received praise and thanks from the INMO President, General Secretary and our Minister for Health,” she says.
“Both of these events have helped me to not only build my confidence in my profession but also allowed me the opportunity to meet some very influential and inspiration people in my profession. I look forward to my future adventures in my nursing profession.”
My name is Róisín O’Connell. I am a fourth year intern student. I am the oldest daughter of a farmer and a nurse and I hail from the beautiful county of Clare. I am here today to represent my college, my peers and the students of Ireland in celebrating nursing.
Today I will be speaking about why I became a nurse, my experiences as a student nurse in Ireland and the contribution nurses make to both patients and society.
For me nursing has always been in my life, however at the start I would have never predicted that someday I would be standing here giving this speech. My mother is an ICU nurse and when I was younger I wasn’t really impressed with the long hours and the sleep overs that mam had at work. But as I got older I realised the importance of her work.
I always loved being around people, I loved making new friends and helping people. From a young age my family and I took care of my grandmother at home and it gave me a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a nurse.
When I filled in my CAO application I never knew the amazing journey that I was starting on. Although these last four years have been full of difficult moments they all now seem worth it as I edge closer to graduation this September.
There were many evenings spent up late finishing an assignment, or rushing into work in the morning with no breakfast because you slept in, again. It was a lot of hard work, going from college on the week days to a weekend job in Clare and back again. But although this was difficult I felt it shaped me as a person. It showed me that if I had the determination to do this that I could do anything. Nursing has taught me compassion, empathy and respect for not only my patients but also my co-workers. No one can prepare you for the cry of a wife who has lost her husband, or the smiles of joy when someone learns to walk again. Nursing has taught me that although healthcare in Ireland is stretched to the limit, that all around the world nurses are respected for the amazing work that we do, and I am proud to be part of that amazing group of men and women.
However in today’s Irish healthcare system, hospitals are understaffed, overcrowded and it is time for change. As the nurse’s role is constantly evolving, many nurses are becoming exhausted and stressed due to this difficult working environment. Nurses work tirelessly from dusk till dawn, 24/7, 365 days a year to ensure that their patients receive the highest level of care possible no matter the conditions. This year nurses decided to stand up for their patients and plead for investment in recruitment and retention of staff. Backed by the public, change is coming. Through the implementation of the safe nurse staffing framework and the voting which has commenced on the labour court recommendation, nurses will hopefully start to see change in our health service.
But all awhile there is a team, an army working night and day to keep “the show on the road”. Although my nursing career is brief I have had many wonderful experiences already. Last year I was given the opportunity to go to Slovenia through an Erasmus programme. There I worked in a hospital for two months. Learning their ways and observing their levels of care. This was a major eye opener for me as it showed me just how lucky we are to have the amazing healthcare that we do and if we are to retain it we need to invest in it. It also showed me how much respect strangers have for nurses. People who couldn’t even speak to me had a respect and gratitude for everything I could do for them. Because I was a nurse.
When working on the Irish wards many patients usually smile as “I couldn’t be possibly old enough to be looking after them”. Even though I am young and still have loads of learning to do I have already learned so much from my time as a nurse. I have discovered my love for critical care, but I have also discovered my passion for change. Becoming an INMO representative has shown me just what one voice can do and how we can all make an impact. I have met the most amazing and inspirational people through this career and I look forward to all my future adventures.
I was once told by a patient that I was worth my weight in gold, that I was an amazing ray of sunshine during a very difficult time in his life. Another told me that without my constant humour and support that she would never have made it through her illness. The constant praise and kind words that I have received have helped me to blank out the difficulties of nursing life. They have helped me push past my tired legs and aching feet. They have pushed me to do bigger and better things for not only my patients but also for my fellow nurses and friends. They have comforted me, when I have felt lost and anxious about whether I will pass my placements. But most importantly they have made me proud that I am a nurse, that every day I can make a small difference in someone’s life and that every day I get the chance to do amazing and wonderful things.
I think nurses take for granted how special and unique they are. They have forgotten how much of an impact they make on a person’s life. Are they remembered as the nurse who always tried their best for their patients? Not every nurse you meet as a student will be the energetic teacher that you may wish for, but every nurse cares as best they can with what they have. Nurses are there to support their patients and their patients’ families through some of the most difficult and most precious moments of their life and are still expected to teach.
I am proud to call myself a student nurse, and come September 2019 I will be proud to call myself a staff nurse. This has been the most challenging four years of my life, filled with blood sweat and tears. But I would do it all again to become part of this amazing team of men but mostly women. I ask you now if there is only one thing I say that you remember. Remember this:
Each and every Irish nurse is worth their weight in gold if not more, and no matter what anyone tells you, you are the ray of sunshine in your patients’ day, you are the beating heart of the Irish health care service. You can make a difference if you put your mind to it, and every day we do make a difference to society in Ireland by improving patient care in Irish hospitals.