Where would we be without nurses?

10 May 2022

Nursing is both a privilege and a great responsibility

For Dr Jane Desborough, International Nurses Day is an opportunity to reflect on her personal journey as a nurse as well as the vital work of nurses all over the world.

“Nursing exposes you to the many ways that people respond to and cope with illness, adversity and sometimes death, as well as the diversity of emotions that accompany these experiences,” Jane says.

Jane is a registered nurse and midwife of 30 years who has worked in clinical settings including surgery, medicine, emergency, remote area, community nursing and general practice.

Through her many years of nursing, Jane reflects on the importance of communication within her profession.

“Nursing is both a privilege and a great responsibility and communication is central to the relationships that nurses have with patients and other healthcare providers,” she says.

For Jane, human connection and understanding are at the heart of nursing, and a pivotal moment while volunteering at a clinic in Calcutta, India, was a significant factor in shaping her views about her profession.

“One of our patients was a beggar who lived at a local train station. Some of the volunteers wanted to make life better for the beggar when she left the clinic and started looking for alternative accommodation,” Jane says.

Jane recalls a staff member explaining to the volunteers that the patient wouldn’t want to move because the train station was her home – the place where she was surrounded by family and friends. The decision to move her may increase her physical comfort but would cause much greater emotional discomfort.

“This was the first time I realised that what we as healthcare professionals may believe is best for someone, is not always what that person believes or knows to be best for themselves. And their priorities are not only different to ours, but they outrank ours.” Jane says.

This experience had an enduring impact on the way Jane works and on her research.

Jane is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU. She is a mixed methods researcher who works closely with patients, clinicians and policy makers to conduct research that is both responsive to the needs of all parties and aims to focus on improving patient outcomes.

“People are at the centre of my research. Engaging closely with health care consumers, from study design through to research translation, is fundamental to my work,” she says.

Jane’s experience as a nurse has provided her with a great foundation for her academic work, particularly as a leader of the Our Health In Our Hands (OHIOH) Health Experience Team at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health.

“I am enormously grateful for my experiences as a nurse and the many opportunities that nursing has brought me, including this wonderful time working as a health services researcher with broad and interdisciplinary teams at ANU.”

This International Nurses Day, Jane hopes that people take a moment to reflect on the important role that nurses play within our community, which is perhaps even more critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t imagine where humanity would be without nurses.”