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Blog: A tale from the other side

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In her debut blog, critical care nurse Cassandra Leese learns some valuable lessons from her experience as a patient in her own hospital

As a nurse, it's not often you get to experience a spin through a hospital as a patient. As relatives of nurses will all too quickly recount, unless there’s a puddle of blood and perhaps a limb hanging off, nurses tend to make a dismissive noise regarding their own ailments, and look stricken at the thought of experiencing ward life without being able to go home at the end of the day.

So it was with some trepidation that I drove to work last Friday, not to work, but to join the queue for an MRI scan on my back. First impressions were pretty good. I found the X-ray department with no problems and spied a coffee machine in the corner of the waiting room.

Alas, the receptionist pointedly ignored me as I stood waiting to hand in my appointment letter. I stood there for a good five minutes, begging for some eye contact and curious to see how long it might take. When she did acknowledge me, she mumbled ‘in a minute’ while glaring at her computer monitor. No hello, no chit chat, not a glimmer of a smile. I sat down, subdued and waited for some instruction.

Happily a cheerful support worker poked his head round the door and called me through within minutes. He showed me where I was to change, asked me if I’d had a scan before and, thankfully, tied up the obligatory yellow checkered hospital gown.

Trussed and bound, I instantly felt vulnerable, half naked, and looked like I should appear as an extra in that movie where Jack Nicholson takes on Nurse Ratched.

How many times had I assisted a patient with one of these, having absolutely no idea how tricky they are to do up unaided and how very flimsy they feel in lieu of clothes?

A lady waiting alongside me caught my eye and we shared a moment of complicity. Whilse I had been lucky enough to use my staff parking permit, she was having to pay the nine pounds parking fee each time she came for a scan. She had to pay this despite owning a disabled parking permit, living an hour's drive from the hospital, and not being able to find a space close to the entrance.

To make things worse, she only lived a five-minute walk from her local hospital, which came under a different county and therefore a different budget. Despite this she was amazingly cheerful and very grateful to the staff at the hospital.

I was soon asked through to the scanner and found myself lying on the base, a cushion under my feet, and headphones on my head within seconds.

Told to lie still, I did, and was about to ask a couple of questions when the scan began. A test surely? No, this was it.

Mildly claustrophobic, I clutched my alarm call bell and tried to think of England while the machine honked and burred and buzzed away alarmingly.

Thankfully it was over within 20 minutes. I hope the importance of describing what is about to occur to patients, stays with me for far, far longer.

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