Nour Al Farawi had something to say. And her powerful message is getting across, even though she didn’t utter a single word.
The recent Western graduate posted a video on YouTube in which she profiles, by way of flashcards, the often difficult, always rewarding, job of a nurse. Accompanied by Jenn Bostic’s Jealous of the Angels, a silent Al Farawi gets her messages across via handwritten flashcards accented with candid expressions.
Given its audience-directed message, it might look like the video was made to shatter common, often demeaning, perceptions of what nurses do.
But that’s only partly true, Al Farawi explained.
“I mainly did it for myself. I was reading articles throughout my nursing studies that say many nurses switch careers because the job is either too stressful, or they get burnt out or they just can’t handle it,” she said. “I didn’t want to be one of those people. I wanted to create a video that would remind me why I got into it in the first place.
“There are times when I’ve had really bad days. But when I look at why I’m doing it, and realize it’s for the patient and not for myself, that makes me want to come in the next day.”
Al Farawi, 22, will be graduating in June with two degrees – a BScN and a BSc in Health Sciences. She hopes the video will encourage new and seasoned nurses and remind them what they do is vital and appreciated, even on the toughest of days.
“Sometimes, you’ll get a patient who is grumpy at first, but when they see you caring for them, they’re really appreciative. And even if they’re not, you know that deep down, they might be, and if not, you know you’re still helping them,” she said.
Ask her to sum up what she does and she will answer simply: During long, often stressful, 12-hour shifts in the neurosciences ward at University Hospital, she advocates for patients who are unable to move or speak, people dependent on her attention, compassion and care.
There’s nothing else she’d rather do, Al Farawi explained.
“Nurses advocate for patients who come to us when they’re the most vulnerable and entrust us with their care. To be that person, I find it a big privilege and a huge honour,” she said. “When you look at nursing, it’s like working in the trenches. You’re with patients all the time, and you interact with them. There’s a whole health-care team, but as nurses, we see (patients) for 12 hours at a time.”
Because she spends so much time with her patients – and because many of them, having suffered a stroke or serious injury, can’t move or speak for themselves – Al Farawi feels a strong connection.
“For some, I’m their sole advocate, especially for the ones who don’t have family visiting as often, who will tell me ‘I know this person and they are in pain.’ I have to be the person who (recognizes) that. And it’s difficult for me, when patients are upset and I can’t understand why.”
Fellow nurses, doctors and staff have stopped Al Farawi’s in the hallways of University Hospital to compliment her video that has already had more than 2,300 views and was circulating on Twitter.
The video, especially by the end, is deliberately emotional, Al Farawi said, because she, like other nurses, feels for her patients and because she is emotional herself – she wanted it to show through.
“If I said everything word for word, I would have cried. And the song is about heroes – not that I’m saying I’m a hero – it’s the nursing profession. A lot of people look up to us and I wanted that message to come across.”
The job gets better every day, Al Farawi added.
“The best part of the day is when I go by each patient and I tell them we’re doing shift change and ask if they need anything. Some will thank you, some will (introduce me to their family) and some, as I’m leaving, will say ‘Oh, she’s such a nice girl,’ thinking I can’t hear. It’s nice when you have a bad day, and then you drive home and know what you did made a difference.”