OK then, to start off tell us what country/area you live in, how long you have been nursing for, what areas you have worked in and the specialty you currently work in.
I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I am a in my third year of studying my nursing at uni, which is started straight after school. I have had placements in Gen Med wards, theatre, Cardiovascular investigation unit, upper GI/trauma surgical ward, SA Spinal unit and a few community placements. I also work as an AIN at another hospital, and so spend most of my time with the confused oldies.
What made you decide to become a nurse?
I always wanted to be a vet, but people (especially my grandmother) said that i should be a nurse, and so when i didn’t get into the vet course, and after spending a week in hospital, i saw what nurses actually did do, i decided that i wanted to be a nurse, and am loving it. I like medical things and like caring for people, so nursing seems a perfect job where i can combine those two skills.
Did you find your training prepared you for what actually goes on at the bedside? What sort of things really opened your eyes when you first began working ‘on the floor’?
I am very fortunate to be in a uni course that makes us do three days placement and two days uni through our whole course, so we get a lot of practicle experiences, which is awesome, because there is soo much that uni doesn’t teach you!
I think that only after spending time on the floor and doing things, then you can think back to your training and go, yes, they told us about this at uni. The things they teach, often dont seem applicable, so you don’t concentrate on it, but once you get out there, you can see it all put into action, with a few major differences.
When i was first on the floor, the concessions and variables that you have to take into account really hit home. Uni doesn’t teach you how to crush meds and convince a confused patient to take them. the things that you have to make up and do, really stunned me on the floor – the things that you have to do to make it work for your patient, even through that’s not how the head people want it to happen.
Also what opened my eyes is how bad the health system is external to hospitals. Everyone goes on about how hospitals need more funding, when actually if you poured more money into mental health, aged care and disability services, the hospitals would work a lot better.
I never knew about all these discrepancies until i started my placements, where i would be looking after people who have been in hospital for a month or more, awaiting placement…. I also didnt fully understand what nurses did and what their role was, until i was out on the floor. the minimal time that the doctors spend with the patients, and how they still blocked up corridors and expected us to drop everything and assist them or move out of the way when they are around was surprising too.
Tell us a story: an amazing, funny, moving or memorable moment from your book of shifts.
There are so many stories, already. I will always remember though a gentleman, who was dying of oesophageal cancer. he had come to our ward after his peg had blocked, which had been noticed during his radiotherapy sessions. He came to us, and the decision was made for a palliative approach.
When he first came in they decided that they wanted to put an IDC in him as they didn’t know if the bulge in his belly was ascities or urinary retention, so after the home team trying 3 times to catheterise him, they called in the urology drs, who then put a camera up to see what was happening, and then tried again, which was unsuccessful, so they ended up putting in a NG tube, which all of the nursing staff were assuring them would not work, they did so any-ways, and as soon as the guy stood up, it fell out, making the doctors quite embarrassed.
They decided that he would be ok without an IDC in the end… The joy on the patients face when the doctors decided that he could eat jelly and things again, was amazing to see, as he ate something for the first time in months. He was an alcoholic in his past and had a bit of a sad social history, but when he was in hospital the social workers managed to make contact with his estranged daughter, who he had not seen in 12 years, and she came to visit him.
The patient found out that he had a granddaughter, that the daughter was doing ok for herself, and had a nice partner. The patient was so happy to see his daughter, and loved meeting his granddaughter. That patient will always stick with me, with how much simple things, such as eating or spending time with family means so much to patients, and us as nurses are able to be included in in those moments.
Not just a nurse: what about when you are not at work? What do you get up to in the rest of your life?
Well between studying at uni, placements and work i don’t have that much time, but i just generally like hanging at home, reading or surfing the net. (not very exciting i know…)
Piss and Vinegar: name 3 things that really get under your skin, push your buttons, or generally irritate you at work or outside of work.
-The generalised heath system, as mentioned before, with how the focus is not on prevention, rather than cure. If you put more money into supporting mental health, the carers who are looking after aged or disabled people and more placement facilities, there would be better patient outcomes and more hospital beds for the acutely ill.
- the nurses who dont think the basic things, like ensuring the patients have access to their food, or are changed out of their wet pads, who get their hair combed are not important. They are important to the patient, and impact on their health. and may be just as important as ensuring that their falls risk chart is up to date.
- people who put down policies and guidelines for things, of which they are out of touch with (such as management saying you have to do something a certain way, when they actually have no idea that that way doesn’t work, and is fine the way it is – if they bothered to come down and see what things are really like then perhaps you can devise something that might work…)
The nurses desk: What is the one thing you would like to say to the rest of the nurses or general public out there.
Nurses: we are so lucky to be part of our patients lives. don’t you think that they deserve some privacy, independence dignity and the best care that we can provide them. Do not go in there with preconceived notions of how you are going to do something, or start of being angry with them from another day, listen to the patient and work together.
Rest of the public: we are here to help you, not do everything for you. please start taking some responsibility for yourselves and your health. please turn up to appointments, take your medications, at least try and make the necessary lifestyle changes to help your illness and take some independence for you condition. And please… have a nicely written up list of your medications (including the generic name not just the brand name), with the dosage and frequency on it with you when you are attending a medical facility. a brand name and once a day, doesn’t help me communicate to the doctors what kind of medication they need to write up for you.