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The Unspoken Truth: Healthcare professionals need more support

By Jenyfer Joy:

You may have heard or seen the episodes aired by Four Corners which exposed some of the issues occurring within the healthcare industry. The first program was about how some nursing students were given jobs as registered nurses despite not being fully competent. The second program revealed the extent of bullying experienced by doctors just starting in their profession. The two programs were not only controversial but exposed one unspoken truth – that Australia’s future nurses and doctors are vulnerable but may not be receiving the adequate support they need.

As a final year nursing student, I know that the assessments I have completed so far have been marked rigorously and cross marked. The lecturers and tutors can almost instinctively tell if I have not done my readings and are not hesitant to tell me that my work is not up to standard. The strict marking scheme in conjunction with the numerous clinical placements I have completed makes me realise that it will all be worth it in the end. Yet the story revealed by Four Corners made it appear as if students were allowed to pass because the university had an obligation. I concur with Professor Rhonda Griffith the Dean of Nursing at UWS in saying that the report was perhaps one sided and did not discuss how after the completion of university, students are once again assessed if they meet all competency standards by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. It just does not make sense how despite being assessed by two different professional organisations that students are still under scrutiny.

The other report aired by Four Corners, exposed the bullying tradition inherent within the medical profession. Although, the episode focused on the experience of junior surgeons, bullying transcends beyond just the medical profession. Unfortunately, it is the old story of how the corruption of power and those at the top of the hierarchy continue the tradition of bullying entrenched within the system.  The sayings ‘nurses eat their young’ and recently ‘surgeons eat their young’ are becoming all too prevalent in the media. But it captures how power can be manipulated by those in senior positions and can inevitably destroy the confidence of junior healthcare professionals. I was captivated by what Avril Henry, a leadership consultant, said in regards to emotional intelligence and how it can determine if a person chooses not to become a bully. In a profession where intelligence is favoured over emotional prowess, it is not surprising that bullying is spreading infectiously through the system.

What does this mean to the future nurses and doctors about to graduate? After listening to these two reports, I realised how much support I would need in order to get through the first few years in my profession. I have had wonderful experiences in nursing so far where I have witnessed the tangible positive difference the healthcare team makes in a person’s life. But there were also some extremely difficult times where I was simply called ‘student’ and I started questioning if I really wanted to be part of a team that did not appreciate the contributions I made. If it weren’t for the support the university has provided through workshops and informal discussions, I may not be here today looking forward to graduating. The few years students have at university is filled with exams, mastering and memorising heavy content and trying to have a life. But if we are too really to succeed in the workforce of the future we have to first acknowledge the unspoken truth that students may not be receiving the crucial support.