French nurse François Sterpione knows what nurses need to keep up with demands of tomorrow. These are his three requests.
“Since the beginning of the year, I have only taken them to school once,” said French nurse François Sterpione. He is referring to the limited time he has with his two young children. “I just felt guilty. So, I worked to clear 15 minutes of work to bring them to school.”
François is not a special case. Like many nurses, he works to balance his responsibilities as a parent.
“I leave the house as early as 5:00 a.m. every day,” said François. “I return home around 8:30 or 9:00 at night.”
And balances his role as a patient care professional.
“With the hours, we always try to get a little rest but it is mainly psychological,” said François. “After a while, we can’t carry all that we hear and see. But that also depends on the experience of each nurse and their life history. The younger ones are more fragile and tend to get tired quicker. The more experience we have, we can let go.”
And still, François, age 30, remains devoted.
Amid healthcare’s greatest challenges – aging populations, chronic conditions, budget cuts, staff shortages, François always puts patients first.
“I have just started supporting a little girl with diabetes who needs to receive a regular injection while she is at school,” said François. “I have worked closely with her family, as well as her teachers to integrate this in her schedule. We want her to live a normal life like any other kid at her school.”
Still in the prime of his life, François is trapped. He is locked in a constant battle to continue to improve himself and adapt to patients’ changing needs. His own aspirations are threatened as he fears for the future of those just like him.
“I work half of my time in an interdisciplinary institution focusing on rehabilitation and half of my time as an independent* nurse, visiting patients at home,” said François. “As an independent, we often feel very isolated. We feel that the healthcare system is changing quickly. We are uncertain in which way this is going and what will be our role tomorrow.”
But as an expert, he knows what he needs, and gives three ways that health systems can keep their most precious personnel empowered and evolving to keep up with demands of the sector.
“In the interdisciplinary institution, everything I am working on is based on coordination,” said François. “This means exchange of best practices. From the doctor, to the nurse, and to the nutritionist, the communication among the various experts allows us to follow a thorough approach to benefit the patient and improve care.”
The Journal of Community Nursing found that a lack of coordinated care may play a major role in the treatment of patients with chronic conditions.
“I am never afraid to say to a patient that I don’t know,” said François. “I have never been afraid to ask for the advice of another nurse or doctor who has a different expertise and can help me better support the patient.”
However, there are situations where François fears a lack of skills. “My concern is that my English is not very good,” he says. “Sometimes, I’d like to go further, but I am blocked. Opening to the global world is a little complicated for me, and that is my biggest regret. I push everyone to learn English at school because after school, you do not know what you're going to do.”
For more than a decade, François has committed to acquiring the skills he needs to build his career in France.
“In parallel with the diploma in wound training, I earned a university diploma in Palliative Care and Accompaniment,” he said. “I pursued this expertise on my days off and with personal funding. I worked in a service of continuing care and rehabilitation near Grenoble. And in 2013, I worked in another interdisciplinary medical centre in the commune of Echirolles.”
Today, he takes care of pre- and postoperative orthopaedic surgery patients while pursuing a degree in nursing management. He hopes to work in a clinic given the larger number of job prospects.
But for François, and many nurses in France, there is only one thing that that would truly make him happy.
“Doctors or firemen; they are recognised. They are thanked for their devotion and level of service. The nurse is not,” said François. “The nurse who looks after a man who has been stabbed receives nothing. They tell him ‘take two days and go back to work.’ There are many nurses who do so much, but in the end, there is not much recognition.”
But for François, this recognition can come in many forms -- access to education to ensure nurses can provide the best care possible, or creating a coordinated clinical atmosphere that allows for sharing insights. Even if they stand alone, each of these things illustrate two words: Thank you.
“As a general rule in nursing, you must remain yourself,” said François. “You need a set of several human qualities. We know that empathy is part of it, as well as listening and sympathy; but it is really a whole. Soul and human flesh. If we do not have a human relationship, it does not work.”
Don’t nurses deserve the same human compassion they give?
“I could not imagine doing another job. This is my calling.”
* being an independent nurse in France means that a nurse or caretaker is not part of the national public health system. Typically, nurses that serve in this capacity have their own practice or are employed by a private medical institution