A nurse in training: Time – why the insignificant means everything
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 pseudonymTagged in: nhs, nurse, nursing
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