Oddballs

After my first eight months working as a practice nurse I received a phone call from another surgery asking if I'd like to work for them. I was really happy working with Breeda and the team so I politely turned the offer down a couple of times. The practice manager was persistent though and kept phoning me - even at work! After a few weeks of consideration I decided to go for the interview to see what they were offering, which turned out to be more money and a five minute drive instead of thirty. It was a tricky decision but I took it. It was a shame to leave such a lovely team and, in hindsight, I'm always slightly sad that I did. But the next job worked out well for me too. My role was split between two surgeries so that I could get the hours I wanted. One doctor was a very studious Chinese man who wore a face mask at ALL times for fear of deadly germs. His patients always found this rude! The second doctor was a gentle, quiet man from Kashmir, who I would end up working for for the next fifteen years.

My first day at this practice was so different to my one with Breeda. I had no other nurse to guide me or show me where anything was kept. I arrived to a fully booked clinic and was expected to just get on with it. In the coming years I would realise that this was standard for a practice nurse and I'd been very lucky to be so wonderfully looked after by Breeda. My first patient was Audrey, a tall lady around 80, who had injured her leg climbing onto the bus (a common injury). I've seen many shins scraped to the point of ulceration from various types of steps. I was confident about what dressings to use, I just had to locate them! She was lovely about it and completely understood that I was new and was very patient while I rummaged through every cupboard. Over the weeks that I saw Audrey I got to know her a little and enjoyed our chats. I occasionally still see her now and she's as endearing as ever.

Nurses often come to practice work later in their career so, at 23, I stood out. Unfortunately, it transpired that a couple of oddballs quite liked the idea of seeing a young nurse. I had one boy, about the same age as I was, make an appointment because he had a few grey hairs! He requested to only see me because "we had a special vibe going on". Well that vibe was news to me. This caused the manager to call me in for a serious discussion advising me that I was forbidden from having relationships with patients!! It didn't matter, it turned out I upset him by not recognising him in the High Street one day so that was the end of that special bond.

I had a more sinister encounter with Craig, a nineteen year old boy who I will never forget and who serves as a harsh reminder of the vulnerable position practice nurses can find themselves in. He had come to see me about a rash on his thighs. I told him I'd need to examine the affected areas so he undressed behind the curtain. I opened the curtain expecting to see his trousers down - but not his boxers as well! I ignored this fact and had a quick look at the rash, which was barely visible. I pulled the curtain across again so he could get dressed and advised him that I would prepare a prescription for the doctor to sign. He didn't really need a prescription but I wanted this boy out so I thought I'd placate him with one. I sat back at my desk and then, to my horror, rather than emerge with his trousers back on, he walked out still naked from the waist down. He then stood in front of me while giving himself a good old jostle. On paper I can't really convey how trapped and threatened I felt. I was alone with this weirdo in a room with no panic button and no way to get out from behind my desk. I quickly decided that the best reaction would be no reaction so I looked him in the eye and explained that his prescription would be ready in 48 hours. This seemed to confuse him for a second and thankfully he pulled his pants up and left.

I sat at my desk stunned. I felt hot and embarrassed and quite shaken. After a few minutes sitting in silence I walked to the manager's office and warned her I had something difficult to explain. She was very kind and supportive and spoke to the doctor immediately. He was upset on my behalf and very apologetic. The situation was in no way funny at all but something he said will forever make me laugh. He asked in his strong Chinese voice 'Was he touching himself or, er basically, wanking away?'. I replied 'The last one'. He shook his head apologising even more, assuring me this sort of thing had never happened at his surgery before. He thought it would be wise to talk to the police and they later came to interview me. I was quite surprised by the level of detail in their questions regarding this awful patient's anatomy. They called me afterwards to say they had cautioned him. I then received another phone call from a policeman a few weeks later informing me that Craig had flashed at a poor old lady in her front garden and that they would be taking matters further.

Obviously Craig was removed from the patient list at that practice and thankfully, despite now having worked at eight different surgeries, I have never come across him again.

Another young man I distinctly remember was Cameron, who was completely harmless but quite mad. He was also nineteen and had one of those thick Scottish accents where you can just about make out a few words from each sentence. He was seeing me for a routine asthma check and while I was discussing the dangers of uncontrolled asthma he declared loud and proud, 'You dinnae hat to talk to me aboot dyin', cause I've done it!'. This caught me so off guard that I had to pretend to get something from the stock cupboard as I was laughing so hard. Was this young boy telling me that he had returned from the dead?!! Once I had wiped my tears away I returned to my desk where he proceeded to tell me about his death on the deck of the Navy ship he was working on and how thankfully he'd been revived by another crew member. Upon further investigation he had actually just passed out from difficulty breathing.

Some experiences as a practice nurse are hilarious, some are quite nerve-wracking and some are just dumbfounding. When you're next sitting in a clinic waiting for your appointment please be patient. You never know what sort of loon we're having to deal with behind that door.

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