Showing posts from August, 2019

Donkey's Ears

My first job as a practice nurse was working for an Irish doctor. In my interview he didn't ignore my young age or lack of general experience but assured me that practice nursing is, in itself, a speciality that he thought I would have no problems adapting to. I just needed the right support. He provided me with guidance and training from the lead nurse at the surgery, Breeda, who was also Irish. She was small, about the same height as me, with a gorgeously warm and bright personality and sparkling, open round blue eyes. She was so welcoming and friendly and gave me all the time I needed to learn many new skills. I had observed most of these skills and done some of the procedures under supervision during my degree but doing them independently with just me and a patient in the treatment room was a different ballgame. Breeda took me under her wing for a whole month so I could really get to grips with what practice nursing entailed. The surgery also supported me by sending me on all t

Blue Girl

It was always strange preparing a room for a new resident as it meant that another one had left, usually because they had died. Even though the actual slip away from this life was peaceful for these elderly people and was a release from their terminal illnesses, it was always sad. We had to continue caring for the remaining residents, of course, and any new ones. We once admitted a man who wasn’t with us long because he died by, let’s just say, giving himself a good time. The excitement just proved too much for him! I particularly remember the day when we admitted a very tall, broad-shouldered man with a heavy Scottish accent. He had neat white hair and thick glasses with classic black frames. He had a booming voice and when we met him he proudly announced that he was 'Alasdair Ballantyne Dunwoody' as if he was some great celebrity or aristocrat. He always sat very upright in his armchair with his arms folded across his chest, and when he wanted something you could hear him fro


Starting my first job as a qualified nurse in the small hospice/nursing home was both exciting and daunting. I knew there was more responsibility for me now but since I had decided to work in one of my comfort zones, I wasn't too nervous on my first day. The home was in a large but cozy Victorian building, with a large entrance hall, sturdy staircase and many original features. To the left was a spacious, open-plan dining room and lounge, with the kitchen leading from the dining room. There were a few bedrooms and a bathroom on the ground floor, as well as the office, and more bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs to accommodate the fourteen residents. It must have been an incredible house when it was first built and I loved the character of the place. The manager, Sandra, was welcoming and she appreciated that I was fresh out of training. For a while she made sure I always worked with another qualified nurse but, eventually, I would be the only one on shift, managing a team of care ass


I can't speak for all universities but in the final year of my training I was feeling horribly unprepared for the real world of nursing. It wasn't the hospital nurses' fault; most wards were understaffed and just providing patient care was enough of a challenge. Training the daunted young students was an extra strain and the lack of mentoring resulted in me having no confidence in essential basic skills. In addition, some nurses were perfectly adequate at caring for patients but weren't great teachers. I remember one attempting to show me female catheterisation but she got so flustered by me watching her that she repeatedly failed to find the patient's bladder and just gave up. To combat my lack of knowledge, I requested as many placements in the community as I could. This meant that I had a huge amount of one-to-one time with experienced nurses. I'd present them with a list of skills that I felt I was lacking, and would then practice them under their supervis


The first half of my degree was split into seven placements, aimed to give us experience in various areas of nursing. We worked in medical, surgical, paediatric, maternity, learning disabilities, mental health and community settings. Paediatric and maternity were both very enjoyable, I got to watch deliveries - both natural and Caesarean - and spent a lot of time with midwives and health visitors visiting new mums and their babies at home or in clinics. I learnt how to feel for a baby's position and find its heartbeat and spent hours and hours weighing babies in clinic. Interestingly though, despite my earlier plan to study midwifery, this placement confirmed that, for now, I had made the right decision to train as a nurse. What followed was far more difficult; I found the learning disabilities and mental health placements a tough challenge. I'll always have great respect for nurses and others who work in this field, including my cousin. Sophie, you are an angel and I don't