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A nurse in training: Time – why the insignificant means everything

murse 300x225 A nurse in training: Time   why the insignificant means everything

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When I* was considering going into nursing there are certain, shall we say, hurdles that as a male it is necessary to cross, such ‘hurdles’ include this idea that nursing is very much a female professional prompting doubts and questions about why you’d want to do such a thing. My response is the same as for most things, I have some pithy self-deprecating remark on hand and if it goes any further I will start on a tirade about the complexities of nursing and how sex does not determine your abilities to care for someone in their time of need (it’s usually best if people take the pithy self-deprecating remark and be done with it).

As well as the feminine attributes associated with nursing there is, or at least was, this idea of the nurse as this angelic vocation-driven lady of the lamp figure selflessly tending to the sick with a disposition as flawless and as well turned out as the starchy uniform she wore. Such an image is not an easy one to live up to, especially when it doesn’t necessarily define the parameters of what it means to be a nurse in 2012.

There are many patients on the ward on which I work who still have this antiquated view of nursing. A fine example is when I’m walking around and I get stopped with an ‘excuse me doctor’, the main reason being that my uniform is a white tunic, which does not look too different from the white coats that doctors always used to wear around the wards before infection control sent them to the charity shop in the sky.

A nurse to most older people is still the person who is there to care for them, to make sure they are clean, that they can get to the toilet, and that they are getting enough to eat and drink and helping them when necessary. And as a student nurse I would not argue with this one bit. Not a word. I believe the fundamentals of nursing start right there, with the basic requirements that everyone needs. There is no discrimination here. Everyone, everywhere needs to feel cared for, to have something to eat and drink, to be clean, unfortunately a huge proportion in the world don’t have these basic necessities, however as a nurse it is our responsibility, our duty to make sure those in our care get this. At the very least.

Nevertheless it is these basic elements of care that often seem to be missing and without such foundations of care the bricks that make up the rest of nursing can no longer stay together and will begin to fall away. A recent radio documentary on Radio 4 discusses this very issue. I urge you to listen to it, because although as a student nurse it pains me to hear this stark reality it is also important that we all begin to wake up to see what state the NHS in order to see how we can change it:

The title of my post ‘TIME: The insignificant means everything’ is really as self-explanatory as it seems, it is all about the importance of time. People often argue that the reason nurses can no longer give the care they need is a lack of time, as a result of being understaffed or due to the huge amount of paper work. I have seen first-hand the enormous expectations that nurses have in terms of paperwork and in some respects it is ridiculous, however it is also vital in making sure that people are getting the care they need.

I am lucky to be on a ward with some extremely competent and compassionate nurses who know their patients both in terms of their ailments and as people. Alongside them are the wonderful healthcare assistants and together they are able to see the person as a whole: what they like to eat and drink, how much they are eating or drinking, whether they’re going to the toilet enough, whether they are happy or sad, whether anyone’s been to see them recently, if they are in any pain. These are all essential elements for someone’s well-being and by keeping a record of them there is a continuity of care between nurses and it means the patient is getting the treatment they need.

I am in a privileged position as a student nurse in that I am supernumerary, that is to say I am an extra body on top of the usual staff quota on the ward. What this means is that when I am not required to be with my mentor I have the time that is needed to be with people. I can be there for patients if the other staff are attending to others. This allows me to chat to them, find out about them, their families, sort out the bedside tables for them, offer them a drink; all things which are not time consuming but are so valuable to someone when they are stuck in hospital. I make a point of always staying in my nurse’s bay so that when someone needs something I am always there to take them to the toilet straight away or get hold of the nurse, so that the patients feel that they are being cared for and not just feeling like they are constantly pressing a call bell to nowhere.

One striking thing that inspired me to write this post was when I was on a bay the other day helping out with the breakfast; I went over to one of the ladies in her late nineties and gave her some toast. I sat her up in bed and put the table in front of her and asked if she’d like butter and marmalade and whether she’d like me to spread it for her as I could see suffered a bit from arthritis.

Her response was one that made me feel a little sad inside, ‘oh I know that you’re so busy, so only if you have time’. My reply to her was that ‘of course, I always have time’ and that is absolutely true because if I cannot stop to take the time to spread butter on some toast for someone, then I think we might as well shut up shop now as that’s not a world in which I wish to spend time.

*John Smith is a pseudonym

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  • Dougie

    Thank goodness there is at least one NHS nurse that “gets it”.

  • creggancowboy

    Glad you are having an enjoyable career but my last visit to a UK hospital underlined the other image – nurses to busy on their mobiles or who did not give a damn.

  • Kyle

    There isn’t a single feminine thing about nursing, in my opinion. Men make great nurses, and I think that society will come around eventually and stop viewing nursing as a woman’s profession. Men tend to be very good problem-solvers and physically stronger than women, both of which are great assets to nurses. In the United States (where I live), approximately 1/10 nurses are men; I am unsure of the demographics in the United Kingdom, but I assume they don’t differ greatly.

    creggancowboy-Sorry you had a bad experience with your nurses. Where I work that would not be tolerated. That’s not to say that I never check my phone at work, but never when I have a patient in need.

    Kyle, RN

  • Zingster

    The reason I went into nursing 21 years ago was to care for people. Unfortunately I will not nurse again. During my time in nursing the job has changed so much and the more competent you are as a nurse, the further away from the patients you seem to get.
    You no longer have the time as a qualified nurse to do the little things which you would like to. There IS a staggering amount of paperwork to do (if you do it properly and not leave it for the next person on duty). The ratio of qualified nurses to patients/residents is crazy. I attended a care home as an agency nurse for a night shift and they wanted me to be the only nurse for 46 residents! I was made to feel terrible for not taking the shift.
    The standard of nursing in this country has gone down. Why? 2 reasons. 1. The mass influx of overseas nurses who received poor training in their respective countries. These nurses dont become well trained nurses overnight do they? So what do we expect. 2. The training changed from being mostly ward based to degree training. Now, I remember working with some degree students on accident + emergency. On one occasion we were about to help a lady from her cubicle to a taxi to go home but she couldnt walk very well and needed a wheelchair so I asked the student “could you go and get a chair”. 5 minutes later she returned with a normal chair! No wheels!! Another time a patient had been incontinent and we asked her to get “some pads”. She returned with chest pads which were used with a defibrillator!!! God I have so many funny stories.
    I truly miss nursing, I loved the job. But it is not the same. If id wanted to push a pen around id have went into office work. It makes me mad when I read comments about lazy nurses sitting at their stations. We arent all like that. I fear that too many nurses are now just sick of the job and how it has turned out for them. For me the lure of better careers with better wages has just proved to strong and so I am now following a different carrot.
    I am also a male and I never had any problems (apart from the obnoxious midwives during my maternity placement – but everyone know midwives hate men, despite the fact the we keep them in a job!!!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/icswatson Ian Watson

    I miss the profession but I was not going to support care in the community as a matter of principle and with ward based posts becoming extremely rare it wasn’t going to happen for me.

    I still disagree with the modern post project 2000 style of teaching where the continuing assessment style previously was a more thorough style of training that put people first not classroom studies and there is no better tutor than hands on study with a little in at the deep end for a baptism of fire.

  • Psykickdeli1

    Not at all the same profession – but a profession none the less – i went into teaching four years ago – with the niave believe that because its “a profession” i might be treated differently from all the other “non-professional jobs” i had,had in the past – although i personally would not call what i was doing unprofessional, just the construct in which i was doing it, but that is another discussion. I can’t even look at an application teaching now, without feeling angry and sad about what is happenning to education and what has been done to me personally by the people who are in control of it. Privatisation is the root cause of this catastrophwe and its the same with this -unless i am misreading this

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001112411631 Meryl Davids

    I am a male and started nursing in 1981, when I was 26 years old, then we had paper work, you had to learn how to admit a patient with a blank piece of lined paper, not the idiot sheets that are used now. Nurses did the job because they wanted to, not to get a cheap degree, and we always had time. My first ward as a qualified nurse was a 36 bedded all male long stay psychiatric ward, remember those before the government decided not to look after these vulnerable people any more, I was on nights on my own not even a student to back me up, I can’t see any of todays newly qualified degree level nurses being able to cope with that sort of first day as a qualified nurse. I later did my general training, and indeed had the midwives trying to convince me to be the districts first male midwife. however since the introduction of the misunderstood nursing process, it was never supposed to be a paper exercise, and p2k nursing has gone to the dogs, and with the loss of the commonwealth trained nurses, replaced by european nurses the whole level of ability caring, and general interest of nurses seems to have been lost. I’m now early retired, I’m sure I would have missed it if I had been in this situation in 1981, but in 2012 I don’t miss the pc paperwork brigade now running nursing whatsoever.


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