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‘My experience of being a patient was positive’

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I spent some time in hospital recently and actually enjoyed the whole experience. My relapsing, remitting multiple sclerosis has slipped into a relapse phase.

It was good to have supportive work colleagues who noticed: ‘Brian, you’re not walking too well’. Even though I was diagnosed 10 years ago, with such a variable condition as MS sometimes it’s as though I need permission from someone else before I can take myself off-line and pop down to the GP for a sick note.

There are times when, as a nurse, you cross the line becoming a patient. But at least you know the system from the inside. Having the full medical MOT is always reassuring – if the results are positive; which they were.

While waiting for a ward bed and with an arm full of steroids, I waded through a stack of notes on the role of the assessor. The NMC wants us all to become mentors and this module is hanging over me like a cloud. So I couldn’t help ‘assessing’ the staff and couldn’t fault any for their professionalism, politeness and having that ‘X’ factor which makes a good multidisciplinary team.

A couple of medical students swished into my cubicle asking to examine me – which was fine. They couldn’t believe it when I answered their questions in the appropriate medical vernacular. Perhaps I should have been mischievous and invented a phantom pain to confuse them. I said to the female student: ‘You’re both very good. But you just need a bit more confidence.’ ‘Tutors are always saying that,’ she confessed.

Why is it that when a urine specimen is required, you can’t produce a drop? I eventually emerged from the loo clutching the specimen pot with satisfaction, only to hear someone say: ‘Oi, nurse. Get ‘im to do that gown up, ‘is bum’s all ‘anging owt!’

Being on a ward with other patients is quite an experience if you’re a nurse. It didn’t take long to work out that the man opposite had diabetes, the lad in the bed next to me had sickle cell anaemia and the elderly gentleman across the way, whose chest secretions bubbled like a witch’s cauldron, was just very old.

As the millilitres on my IV pump counted down, I reflected on my experience. A few years ago I’d had cause to make a formal complaint about a relative’s care, so I was a little apprehensive when I was admitted to the same ward. But my stay at the North Middlesex Hospital was entirely positive.

Brian Belle-Fortune is a student practice facilitator at Great Ormond Street Hospital

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