10 March 2014

The cabbie test

HULL, United Kingdom—Wherever I go, cabbies (a UK expression for taxi or cab drivers) are never backwards at coming forwards with their views, whether in London, Dublin, Washington, D.C., or my hometown of Hull. Race, religion, or politics—no subject is off the agenda, and they tend not to care what your views are; only giving you theirs. I have twice had vociferous views on nursing expressed to me, always with frank disgust at the thought of nurses going to university.

Many years ago—1999 to be precise—I was the first professor of nursing in Ireland and part of a government committee charged with the task of establishing nursing degrees in that country. While en route from the Dublin airport to my apartment, the taxi driver asked what I did. I told him, and he “let fly” with a stream of invective about the move of Irish nursing education into universities. I thanked him for his views and took a mental note never again to tell a taxi driver what I did, exactly.

However, this week, on my way home from the railway station, lulled by a false sense of security, I told a taxi driver my occupation—and promptly regretted it. He had, at one time, worked as a nursing auxiliary, and his view was that everything nursing stood for had been lost with the move of “nurse training” into universities. My mind drifted to gratitude for that “loss.” I, too, used to be a nursing auxiliary, and I recall patients tied to chairs; tea, sugar, and milk being served in the same pot; medicines being forced on patients; and stealing from clinical areas on an industrial scale. But I kept quiet; I just wanted to get home to bed.

I have decided to inaugurate a new test—the “cabbie test.” Cabbies seem to be a barometer for the extremes of public opinion, and the opinion expressed by my drivers is not uncommon amongst the UK public. I rarely meet anyone who is glad about nurses being educated in universities, and I reckon that, even if public opinion were changed, we could not be sure it was permanent until a taxi driver asked what I did and then expressed support for university-educated nurses. When that day comes, if ever, I’ll know that a major milestone for the image of nursing has been achieved.

Running and climbing
I mentioned in my last entry that, for months, I had not broken 22 minutes in the local Saturday-morning 5 kilometre race. Well, last weekend I achieved a time of 21 minutes and 2 seconds, beating my daughter, who is an army physical-training instructor. Competitive or what! I now have 21 minutes in my sights, and, since Christmas 2013, have put the first 1,000 miles on my GPS watch.

My oldest daughter is a rock climber, and she borrowed some equipment from me this weekend to do some real climbing. During these cold, wet months, we mainly climb indoors, but my daughter—a cardiothoracic intensive-care nurse—is clearly getting outdoors. I’m keen to follow. A day on the rocks, with its unique combination of pain and terror, is one of the best forms of meditation available. It will take my mind off cabbies.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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