Six months ago I received my second favourite text to date. A picture of an eight week ultrasound and the words “You’re going to be an aunty!”
My sister-in-law’s pregnancy was ridiculously smooth. No morning sickness, no drama, in fact the most exciting things got was when she posted on Facebook about eating pork pies – was she finally experiencing a pregnancy craving? No, she’d just found a really good pork-pie shop.
Things went so smoothly in fact that when, four weeks before her due date, the baby hadn’t turned we all assumed she was just taking her time and all would be fine. But she didn’t turn and remained breech.
As the realisation that she would most likely be having a caesarean hit home it occurred to me that despite my three years of nurse training, I had no idea what was going on.
“They’re going to try and turn the baby” They can turn the baby from the outside? “The fluid levels are the low-end of normal” Babies have fluid levels? “She’s going to be conscious throughout the c-section” She’s going to see the operation?
Whenever I voiced my lack of understanding or grilled any mothers I know about their interpretation of what was going on, I was met with the same quizzical look and the comment “But you’re a nurse – surely you know about all this!” But the truth is that I didn’t know. My training is in mental health and even my general placements didn’t go anywhere near perinatal care. I may be able to recite section-rights in my sleep but advice on anything remotely physical? No chance.
Although the feeling of helplessness is so much more acute when it’s your own family, it occurred to me that I often felt like this working on mental health wards whenever someone came in who had a physical problem.
The word ‘nurse’ covers so many different areas that at times I’m almost hesitant to use it to describe myself. The roles of mental health nurses and general nurses are so different I sometimes wonder if they should even carry the same title. Particularly as public perception of what a nurse is tends to be limited to general nurses, despite nurses being present in all areas of healthcare.
Is this something only mental health nurses experience or do nurses from all specialties have those moments when they feel their knowledge doesn’t quite live up to their Staff Nurse title?
Incidentally, I now have a new favourite text: “Isobel Eve Entwistle born at 11.59 today, all is well with everyone”.