It’s World Poetry Day on 21 March. To mark this we’re sharing some of the poems members have written about nursing that capture the many experiences and emotions nursing staff live through every day.
A recently registered nurse, Maggie won the 2018 Simon Pullin Award from Edinburgh Napier University for poetry she wrote to articulate her experiences as a nurse caring for patients with dementia and cancer while on placement.
In her poem No Air, she reflects on caring for a young man with a brain tumour and sepsis, and also on the close personal support a nurse gives a patient as part of their everyday working routine.
I was 21 years old when I met this guy, helped him through a hard time – it hurt to say goodbye.
His mum, dad and sister too, 12 weeks of chemotherapy – but he pulled through.
A brain tumour and sepsis – god really picked on you. He knew you were strong that's why he chose you.
21 years old – your life was on hold. I remember first meeting you, you were pale and stone cold.
Sitting in that taxi, not knowing what to say – so I spoke to you about my nursing and how it changed me each day.
Ward 3 was your home for almost 3 months, I'm glad you moved from DCN, you scored points.
You shaved your hair and your eyebrows too, saved chemo from destroying you.
One Saturday night you called my name, let out all your feelings and let go of your pain.
You knew something was wrong but how do you prepare? Migraines and double vision is enough to make you scared.
You closed your eyes, said you didn't see, you were losing hope - that was hard to see.
I left that shift with my emotions in the air – surrounding me, no oxygen to spare.
Lyndsey is a newly registered paediatric nurse who also sits on the RCN Students Committee. She wrote a heartfelt and hard-hitting poem portraying the reality and challenges of being a student nurse in support of the RCN's Fund Our Future campaign.
Another of her recent poems is this incredibly moving piece encouraging nursing staff to remember the person behind the patient.
I am me
Look at my eyes, can't you see?
I'm not just an illness, I am me.
Look past the appearance, my greying hair,
I'm still in there, I'm still here.
Look past the disease, the equipment around,
the doctors, the nurses, I still stand proud.
Once a full life I lived in the past,
a career, a family, time goes by fast.
My children grew old, had kids of their own.
My husband passed on but I'm not alone.
Surrounded by loved ones, grandchildren arrived,
watching them grow filled me with pride.
Memories made I'll never forget,
my life passing by with no regret.
Remember this as you stand and stare,
I'm not just an illness, I'm a person who’s scared.
Scared of what's next, and how to let go.
Leaving my family and not watching them grow.
But most of all as I wither away,
remember the person I am today.
Not just an illness, not just what you see,
I am a person, I am me.
Writer, spoken word artist and nurse extraordinaire, Molly Case was the RCN's writer-in-residence last year.
As part of her residency, she ran workshops exploring the theme of 'place' with inspiration coming from the RCN's Service Scrapbooks project, which showcases the lives, experiences and writings of nurses from the First World War.
In the low light of a dust mote attic,
above the radio hum and the TV static,
there are scrapbooks and diaries
from women that went before
women that lived
and worked and died
and experienced the Great War.
Between their sketches,
spilt ink stains and lines,
you will find,
washed out and dressed,
lacerations and amputations,
burns and blindness,
pages that talk of survival
and the comfort of kindness.
We are more than this old war, they say.
We are all-hour canteens,
bus stops and bottle tops,
corned beef cans and strawberry jam,
we built these dew-drenched shipyards
with our very own hands –
and tanks, boats and planes,
policed our cobbled streets
that would never be the same.
cooled and coated new rubber tyres,
clipped tickets with a
strong grip and dry winter lips,
licked beneath blue skies,
ploughed the earth with tired eyes
we are chimney sweeps and little sleep,
long hours and will power
flour sacks and aching backs,
laid out flat fixing railway tracks.
We are more than medals and decoration
we are the beating heart,
the blood that fuels the circulation.
We’ve nursed the best
and seen the worst
inside these pages
full of women’s work.
Molly also wrote Nursing the Nation, a spoken word piece defending the NHS and the nursing profession against sensationalised criticisms in the media, which was made into a film by Libby Knowles for The Roundhouse.
Molly's latest book How to Treat People, a memoir and reflection on her time working as a nurse and the very real human connections and experiences this has brought, is out on 18 April.
Andy is a third year nursing student and he wrote the below poem to celebrate Nurses' Day from a student perspective last year. The poem has been designed and enhanced by the Art Department at Wolverhampton University, where Andy is studying, and is currently on display.
Student nurses we are
Students we are
Nurses we train to be
Books 'n papers we read
Essays we write
Exams we take
On placements we go
In rain and snow
Here, there and everywhere
Skills we learn
Friends we make
Pride we take in all we do
Not enough hours in a day
To fit it all in
10 essays in the bin
And a bottle of gin
Trip and fall
A wall we hit
Thoughts of failure,
I’ve had enough it’s too tough
Something we all do
Fellow students, now are friends
To the rescue they come
Words of support, an arm around the shoulder
A text here and there
It shows they care
No ordinary students are we
Super heroes, student nurses we are
We’ve come so far
Three years won’t seem so long
When the day comes
Before my name
with honour and pride
Title of nurse
So stay strong
nurses we will become