A Cup of tea – the seventh “C” of nursing

It was early on New Year’s Day – always a busy day in A&E – when the patient arrived in cardiac arrest. He had collapsed suddenly at home, in front of his family in the middle of breakfast. He had received the best possible treatment in the ambulance, and then from the hospital team, but we were powerless to save him.
His family was devastated – and so was the team. Maybe it was because it was New Year’s Day, supposedly so full of hope, maybe it was because he was so young, but we were all emotional. I was a nurse in the resuscitation team. I tried to hold back my tears while a doctor broke the bad news to his family, but as I looked at his devastated wife and daughters, my heart was breaking. When we left the room, I lost it – I ran to the staff room and couldn’t stop crying.

And then the ward sister came in. She didn’t say anything – she just gave me a big hug, sat me down and made me a cup of tea. I didn’t know why, but drinking that tea was like a miracle – not until years later did I learn about the healing powers of tea.


I’ve been a nurse for 18 years now, working my way up from a Health Care Assistant in A&E to Resuscitation Officer, and I’ve learned many skills, practiced many different techniques, and studied for a degree. But fundamental to me, as to all nurses, are the key principles of practice – Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.

Throughout my practice, I’ve seen lots of CPR, blood … and fear… But when medicine fails, it seems making a cup of tea for someone at their most vulnerable can instantly help them feel better –  for me it is the magical seventh “C”.

In British culture, a cup of tea is one of the best-known symbols of care, compassion, courage and commitment. When you’re upset, it’s often hard for others around you to find the right words. But someone making you a cup of tea can say it all. It gives you a break, a chance to take a deep breath, it warms your heart – and most of all, it tells you that someone is there for you, that they’ve taken the time to be with you, and they understand your pain. And what’s amazing is that when these roles are reversed, making a cup of tea for someone else makes you feel better, too – it works both ways.

You don’t need to be a nurse to understand the power of tea. Next time you get the chance, make a cup of tea for someone who is upset – who seems angry, anxious or just tired. Make a cup of tea for your wife who has just spent all day with a crying baby, for your husband who has just spent three hours commuting home on a train, or for your boss who has just given you extra work…

You don’t even need to ask if they want one – just do it. And you’ll instantly make their day – and yours – much brighter.

Happy international nurse day from me – Lana Nela and Balcony tea.

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