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Is a little goodwilled deception justified?

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I popped in to theatre to see how my list was getting on. Fairly smoothly by the looks of it, until one of the theatre nurses remarked on how nervous our current patient had been.

‘What was she like going off?’ I asked, wondering what she would be like waking up. ‘Well... OK, as long as you kept talking about netball. She used to like it when she was young and it seemed to take her mind off the operation.’

Inwardly, I grimaced. I played netball at school but only in a manner of speaking. My preferred method was to volunteer to goal-keep and then pray fervently that play would be kept down the other end of the court so that I could carry on with the paperback stuffed in my waistband, which obviously precluded running, jumping and any other form of physical activity.

However, I had once read something about making a pint pot of knowledge fill a hogshead of ignorance, and I resolved to stretch my fragments of netball knowledge to the limit.

My patient came out of theatre in a very anxious state, and I worked hard to reassure her. Casually dropping in a mention of netball got an instant result, and it seemed a pity to pass up this unexpected anxiety cure.

And so for 30 minutes I listened to my patient talk tactics, team play and past scores. I pretended to be every bit as interested as she was. Soon, she was recovered enough to return to the ward.

Walking back, I wondered whether my ploy had been sympathetic or just deceitful.

Is it right to feign enthusiasm for the sake of reassurance? Is it at least more meritorious to do it for that reason than to do so for self-serving reasons? And, more disconcertingly, is it alarming that it came so easily?

Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a newly qualified staff nurse in Devon

Want to read more starting out? Click on the more by this author link at the top of the page

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