I love words. I love how they have unique sounds, how together they can give anyone power and strength, that they can convey meaning, emotion and passion. Words in song, in poetry or on literature allow you to escape and discover new worlds and different people. Words in law or reporting or policy give us structure and clarity. I have found a new love of words in writing, watching the letters form as the ink from my fountain pen skates with twists and turns across the page and brings me a sense of calm and clarity.
But words can be dangerous, they can cut and bruise, and those wounds can take a lifetime to heal. We can hear words ringing in our heads of times that we have been told negative things about ourselves or others. Words can segregate, incite hatred and condemn people. Words can cause us torment, angst and long term mental health issues.
In this world where we write less and less on paper, but increasingly tell people how we feel or think instantly through a variety of social media and messenger apps, the power and pain of words is evident. Now, we often send messages without reflecting on the impact of those words or considering if we’d be happy having them published or attributed to us as a reflection of our character.
So, why, as a nurse, do I write this? Well, I write it as a nurse, a human and a person who has been hurt and damaged by the words someone has used about me, and who has seen that hurt in others. I write this blog as a word of caution, but hopefully also as a source of comfort.
If we value words and the meaning and thought that goes alongside them, choosing to match our emotion and effort to these words, they become all the more powerful. As nurses, the words we choose about ourselves, our colleagues, our patients and their carers are powerful, strong and are listened to and reflected upon.
Words allow us to advocate for others, to stand up for those whose voice is not yet strong or loud enough to be heard or has been silenced by oppression. If you have a platform and voice – use it for good, use it to empower, but also use it to listen and to question.
If you are a newly registered nurse – use your voice. Use it to ask questions, don’t stand idly by. Use your voice and your words to show how you value others, to gain feedback, to advocate and to inspire. Use it to say sorry for mistakes and to forgive others for theirs.
Use words to learn and to teach. Just match those words with thought and emotion and use them wisely and with consideration, for when we do that and engage on that level – wow, what a difference we as nurses can make to the world.