published on
March 8, 2024

International Women's Day 2024: Women in healthcare are so much more than 'kind'

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Care professionals
International Women's Day 2024: Women in healthcare are so much more than 'kind'

This International Women's Day, we're spotlighting the skills women working in healthcare use every day that go less recognised.

Physical strength, intelligence, leadership - and a big sense of humour - are just as needed in nursing and care roles as the empathy and kindness women are usually celebrated for.

To understand just how wide this perception gap is, we surveyed 170 Florence professionals about what it truly takes to be a woman working in healthcare. Here's what they told us...

More than 'kind': 7 skills of women in care

1. Physical strength

68% of our nurses and care assistants surveyed said they need a lot of physical strength for their role.

Everything from time spent on your feet in care settings, to physically lifting and moving those in your care, including pushing wheelchairs, draws on your own strength.

One nurse commented:

"[Physical strength] is crucial every single day through washing and dressing patients, most of our patients needs 2 staff to wash, dress, repositioning every 2 hours, it's all physical. I am on the ward 13hrs a day, multiplied by 5 days. In those 13hrs I only sit down for 1-1,5hrs only, otherwise, the rest of the time is spent walking, standing whilst doing interventions to patients. Nursing is indeed a challenging job."

2. Knowledge

90% say in-depth knowledge is essential in care.

Your knowledge is built on your experience, and over time you draw on this wealth to make life-changing judgement calls in the moment.

You'll do this time and time again - as one professional says "It is a daily thing, with my job a single drug error can cost a life therefore as a nurse having vast knowledge of your job [is essential]".

Knowledge and experience also shape the everyday things you do that make a big difference to peoples' lives. One nurse shared:

"I was attending to a resident who had dementia. With my experience and prior care training, I allowed the resident to keep as much control of her life as possible. I respected the resident's personal space. I made sure I created quiet times into the day, along with activities. I kept well-loved objects and photographs around the room to help the resident feel more secure and safe."

3. Multi-tasking

77% say they’re most often multi-tasking.

You juggle so many things at once in a healthcare role. On top of the different needs of each person in your care, you'll be prioritising answering your colleagues' calls or any emergencies that happen.

Jumping in to multi-tasking action in urgent situations is part of the job:

"In the care home where I was on duty, there was a particular day on which we had a high volume of residents who demanded care, and other carers needed to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. I had to put my multitasking skills into use where I also simultaneously took the vital signs of one patient, administered medication to another, and communicated with the nurse regarding the condition of a third patient."

4. Efficiency

92% say efficiency is crucial.

Doing more, in less time (somehow!) is the lifeblood of being a nurse or care assistant. You simply need to get the right things done, in the right timeframe, to create the best outcomes for those in your care.

Many professionals said teamwork was important for efficiency: "Considering we are a team, and team work is fundamental we need each others' support to get good results."

Delegation was also called out as important for efficiency, among other things: "Being proactive, delegating tasks and identifying my clients' needs."

5. Leadership

76% say leadership is super important.

Taking the lead saves lives. One nurse recalled:

"There was 999 call for a service user who was very unwell and while this was happening another service user had a fall. Being able to assign a task to staff without causing any stress to them is very important to continue essential work to be done for both service users. At the end both service users got the help they needed safe and accurately."

Leadership also means building up your own team, as another said: "I have been a manager for 10 years, my role was all about bringing my team with me, knowing they were supported. I would never have asked any staff member to do something I wouldn't have done myself."

6. Resilience

83% say resilience is vital.

Working in healthcare expends more emotional and physical energy than most jobs on the planet.

If you don't look after yourself too, you can risk burning out.

As one respondent said: "It’s an ever changing, hard role. There are times that you get pushed and tested. You just have to stay strong."

Another said resilience is a "cardinal principle for care. Without being resilient care work may not be delivered effectively."

7. Laughter

89% say laughter and humour is a big part of their role.

You might find yourself playing games, cracking jokes, putting on music, dancing and singing with those in your care.

Those spontaneous moments bring joy - and go so far in building trust and relationships.

"It's a tonic to the soul," one professional said.

"My smile and understanding with active listening as well as humour resolved patient issues," said another.

Simply put: "A good sense of humour and laughter takes away stress."

Thank you to our Florence professionals for being much more than your kindness. This International Women's Day, join us in recognising every side of our remarkable female workforce.

You also might be interested in:

- 10 truths about being a nurse

- Misconceptions about working in care

- 15 reasons care is the best career

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