Who would be a nurse? Part Two
However good your initial nurse training it can never prepare you for the shifts and events that shape your career. The overwhelming memory of my last year as a student nurse was of a couple running in with a tiny baby into the A & E department, blue, not breathing, motionless. The team dutifully fired into action, faultless and robotic like in their actions. The next 15 minutes became a blur as I secretly prayed for a miracle. The dreaded words "time of death..." resounding in my head. What happened next I would never wish on anyone. I was asked to take the couple to the relatives room. Alone. Me. A mere 3rd year student nurse. A mixture of anger and choked back tears filled my head. The mother white as a sheet, clutching her yellow soft wool blanket. The father, trying to be strong but obviously falling apart. The walk to the relatives room seemed endless and dark. The chairs we sat in pale, a little tattered and worn seemed stark. The fading photography on the walls unwelcoming. As if this was not bad enough, there were two burly police officers waiting to greet us. "A sudden death... must be investigated.. just routine.. nothing to worry about..." I looked at them with disbelief. had they not tact, no common courtesy, no human compassion?
The couple now both in obvious shock, shaking from head to toe, tears falling, no tissues, until I passed them the standard NHS box. Something riled within me, and I said to the officers, "Enough, please, this is not appropriate, step outside until we are ready". I don't know where this came from, we are all prepared in training to be patients advocate, but at this moment, I truly understood what this meant.
Words came from somewhere, I managed to talk to the couple, they talked through their shock, grief, disbelief, thanks to the team, to me for my time. As they left with the police, I felt my own grief kick in. Unfortunately there was no time to discuss this, the shift was 4 hours from finishing and I was needed. The one thing that was wrong, was that no one took time to ask me if I was comfortable with how things went, did I need time out, did I need to talk. From that day on, I vowed never to leave a student or a colleague unsupported and always strive to talk through any issues that arise.
My first shift as a qualified nurse was with another more senior nurse. She hated being in charge and ended up in tears after about 2 hours. The ward in disarray, junior staff unsupervised. Although I could not hold the keys, my natural well meaning "helpful bossiness" took over and I sorted the workload, delegated tasks, and the shift passed with no one the wiser.
I have come across a multitude of leaders in my time. The born leader, who recognises when you need guidance, unclips your wings when you are ready to fly, praises and inspires. The leader who just has to be in charge, with no respect for those in their team, who squashes ideas, puts people down and is destructive but would never even recognise it. I am by no means perfect, but I have always been a hands on nurse. It comes naturally to roll up my sleeves and muck in. Emptying a commode has never been above me and never will be. I could never be "too posh to wash"
On leaving my first job a junior colleague said to me "You will always be respected as you never ask us to do anything you wouldn't do yourself" This stayed with me throughout my career. Although at times I have found the job and the people challenging, if I stopped caring I have always known I would stop nursing, simple as.
My career has covered a variety of speacialities, orthopaedic, nursing homes, medical, gene therapy, clinical investigations, infection control, and now I am a lead ward nurse on a surgical unit and site lead for infection control.
What keeps me nursing? The people who I meet who inspire me, despite their pain and suffering. The people who are not so nice, because this merely sets me a challenge to do better. The satisfaction at the end of a day when I am tired and weary that I have done some good and helped someone. Being a mentor and helping others. Despite the fact that this reminds me how long I have been nursing - now in my 26th year, it still fires my enthusiasm for my profession. I call myself an old fashioned nurse, because my standards are still what they were when I started. My trolleys are still shiny, I set high standards for patients in my care - that they are pain free, comfortable, fed and watered as far as I am able. We all have heard of recent events in the press of shortfalls in care. All I will say is that there is no excuse for poor care or turning a blind eye. We all have an equal responsibility to care for each other and shout out when there is a problem and louder still until we are heard.
Who would be a nurse?
Me. Then, now and probably until I cease to breathe. The moment the uniform goes on (in recent days, scrubs aka Nurse Jackie), I am proud of my profession. I put to one side my own problems and try to do my best for those in my care. I aim to be a happy, cheerful nurse who treats her patient as an individual with respect. I am a team player and equally work well alone. I don't get involved in too much of the gossip, as it bores me, and I merely try to get on with everyone.
I hope I am the kind of nurse someone would want to be looked after by. This would make me happy. I am glad I fought to be a nurse and that I did it just for me, achieved it for myself. My job, colleagues, and patients have helped me through some tough times and I will always be grateful for that. Like everyone I sigh at the end of a busy shift as I open my locker and get changed, but...
A Nurse's Prayer
by Teri Lynn Thompson
Let me dedicate my life today
To care of those who come my way.
Let me touch each one with healing hands
And the gentle art for which I stand.
And then tonight when the day is done,
Let me rest in peace if I've helped just one.