Woman’s new musical show weaves together the joy, pain, compassion and humour of the profession.
A Victorian nurse is touring her one-woman musical comedy act – a show born from a desire to promote the nursing profession.
Zuleika Khan, who studied nursing at the University of New South Wales, theatre at NIDA and musical theatre at VCA has combined her passions for her show Triage! A Nursing Cabaret.
The concept was developed three years ago when Khan, disillusioned by the lack of recognition for nurses and the profession, wrote a 10-minute skit on the trials and tribulations of nursing for the Short & Sweet competition.
“I was working as an ortho and trauma nurse at The Alfred Hospital in Victoria [Australia’s major trauma centre], which was the hardest place I have ever worked in my life,” Khan says. “It was around the time that Victorian nurses were striking for industrial action in 2011–12.”
Khan, whose show debuted in Sydney in September, uses humour and music to convey the harsh reality that is the emergency department and its waiting room – in the hope of generating more recognition and respect for the profession.
She spoke to Nursing Review about her ongoing motivation to inform the public about the true value of nurses and their contribution to the healthcare sector.
NR: What message about the profession are you hoping to get across to the general public through your show?
ZK: I want the world to know what we do. I want respect for every AIN, EN, RN and NP. I want people to know that we are a resource that is definitely worth fighting for.
One day in our life, we will all need a registered nurse. From birth to death we are there. It is the triage nurse who assesses you at the front door first, not the doctor. We are both highly specialised at what we do and there is a good reason why nurses are the ones who triage!
Why is this a message you think is important to get out?
Unless you are a registered nurse you cannot possibly understand how much rests on our shoulders from a young age. The majority of society are healthy people. Chances are most have never been admitted to hospital and they have never seen a nurse run the ward, they don’t know the scope of our practice. In order for politicians to make the right decision, we need the public to recognise our role and fight for better conditions.
You want to demand acknowledgement for nurses. Why do you feel nurses aren’t being recognised and how does this show go about addressing that?
The show was born at a time when the role of the registered nurse was being threatened, which it still is. Nurses are humble and empathic and my mum is the perfect example. I want people to know how amazing she is and how nursing sculpted her that way. Our job puts everyone else first, therefore by nature, nurses do not demand acknowledgement. It changes our way of thinking forever and you are a nurse caring for others 24 hours a day.
My show is fiercely personal and real. The intimate way I interact with the audience is identical to how I deal with my patients … without the bed bath of course.
How do you give the audience a clear understanding of what nurses do day to day?
Without giving too much away, I use comedy and music to educate my audience and soften the harsh realities of the job. I not only tell my true stories, but those of my mother, my best friends and my colleagues.
Nurses have a warped sense of humour so there is plenty to keep medical professionals entertained as well as making it palatable for those who are not in the medical industry. The layout of the show is the waiting room outside the emergency department, I am the triage nurse addressing my room full of patients/audience. Whilst we wait for a bed, I tell some stories and sing some songs with the odd Code Grey thrown in to keep it realistic.
How long has Triage been running?
Since its infancy with the Short & Sweet competition in 2011, the [presentation] was workshopped to different audiences until it formed a complete show, which I have been performing since last year. It is my little ever-evolving baby – no two shows are the same.Do you have an idea for a story?
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