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Nursing home horrors, and why students will never be the same again


More pointless frivolity as Beyond the Bedpan goes where proper journalists fear to tread. This week, why old folk are right to be suspicious of nursing homes, and how the RCN pooped the student nurse party

The decision to put one’s beloved parents/grandparents in a nursing home is never easy. But for many, it’s the inevitable solution as ageing relatives require ever-increasing levels of care.

Picture the scene: you’re showing your frail and nervous mother around her prospective new home, admiring the facilities and trying to convince her and yourself that everything is going to be just fine. The garden looks beautiful, the food nutritious and the other residents friendly and cheerful. Her room is cosy and tasteful, and her roommate is… Myra Hindley.

That’s the (grossly exaggerated) scenario facing nursing home residents in Illinois, US, where the authorities have resorted to housing mentally ill patients - including those recently released from jail - with its senior citizens. The state currently has over 3,000 convicted felons residing in its nursing homes, including 82 murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers. So much for growing old peacefully.

Party poopers

Students, those precocious scamps that represent the future of this great nation, are often up to no good. Heady with the thrill of being away from home for the first time, and young enough to think they can change the world, isn’t it fair that they be allowed to engage in the traditional high jinx of freshers week?

The RCN, who are always good for a laugh, think not. Their guidance for student nurses is unequivocal in it’s warning against the perils of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, although they don’t specifically use those terms. A RCN spokesperson went further: “We want student nurses and midwives to enjoy themselves but they need to remember that they do have a lot more responsibility than many other people heading off to university… they need to uphold the reputation of the profession in their personal lives as well.”

One can only assume that this rules out traditional freshers week activities like riding through town in a supermarket trolley while wearing a traffic cone ‘hat’ and drinking from a three-litre bottle of Scrumpy Jack. How are the poor young things supposed to relax?


Readers' comments (14)

  • I feel it is completely irresponsible for The Nursing Times to have headlines like 'Nusing Home Horrors' when the article is reporting on a unique situation in America.
    For Care Home staff it is hard enough to be working in an environment where you are seen by many as second class nurses, despite much great work being done in many areas.
    Areas of concern are often highlighted in many areas of care delivery, both in acute hospitals and care homes, whilst this is necessary to protect the public, credit needs to be given to all the staff striving and managing to deliver the highest levels of person-centred care despite the many, varied factors that can make it extremely difficult. These sort of headlines which can be read ;and feelings attatched to it, with the reader often not going on to read the article re-inforce unfair negetive opinions.

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  • The practice in Illinois is not copied in the UK so why the misleading headline?

    It is bad enough to be regarded as the dregs of the profession without headlines like this in the nursing press

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  • I agree with the above post, unprofesional reporting. Maybe the editor should be held accountable for bringing the profesion into disrepute themseves their audience is wider than a few people on campus. As for students having a little fun, i dont hear an outcry from the general public that nurses should not have a personal life or a little fun.

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  • I am now 3 years qualified, and did not have a social life when at university, even the students that lived in doing nurse training did not have a social life. Nothing other than going round to a friends for tea and helping each other with essays. The students i mentor now also don't have time to go out drinking they are on placement, doing essays and this takes up most of their time, most are also working aswell and have a family. I feel it unfair to tarnish students with the brush of footloose fancy free. Most nurses i know take nursing seriously and it may be a select few who do go out getting drunk but the RCN need to realise the number will be little and even so we are only human and deserve to go out and have fun whenever the rare opportunity arrises.

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  • I absolutely agree the 'Nursing home horrors' title was completely inappropriate. There is not enough reporting about good practice happening in nursing homes as it is and the title will only reinforce negative feelings and stigma around nursing homes.

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  • Martin Gray

    Programmes such as 'No Angels' and the so-called commedy series starring Jo Brand do nothing to help our profession they do highlight things that do go on; unfortunately it's how such things are interpreted by each individual viewer where the real issues start.

    The 'Carry On' films also depicted a side of nursing, portrayed by characters played by Barbara Windsor, which kindled the naughty nurse stereo-type rather than that of the dedicated and caring reality.

    Nurses do need to have fun, especially in the student phase. What concerns me is the fact that students are NOT working in hospitals on the wards learning our profession; instead they are in universities, and I don't believe for one second that they are all studying as vigilantly as has been suggested. I thoroughly enjoyed my student nursing working on the wards where I not only learned how to do all the basic tasks, I also learned how to talk to patients, integrate with the ward team, and developed my interpersonal skills ans qualities.

    Nowadays I wonder just what the average age of a nurse in a private care home is; I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was in the mid to late 40s. My mother was still working as a Care Assistant at the age of 69 when she died of a sudden MI; I aslo know of nurses in their early 70s still working, looking after people even younger than themselves. Martin should not think such nurses are considered the 'dregs' of our profession; indeed todays modern nurses and students would benefit a great deal from following the standards and dedication to our caring profession rather than learn it from books and academics that believe research results are more important than practical skills experience.

    I won't even comment on the other part of the article; should it ever come to that sort of scenario in this country then the government and DoH would be responsible to build special homes for such people. Maybe the old 'asylums' were not such a mad or bad idea; there has been enough progression in society to realise that it is safer for the patients and the public to house them in appropriate environments where their care needs can be met, rather than try to 'rehabilitate' them into our modern, intolerant society where many are vulnerable to abuse and danger from the younger, ill-disciplined generation. Yes I'm talking about the 'hoodies' and 'feral kids' that seem so commonplace in our towns and cities now, and those that think nothing of mugging old people for just a few pennies because they claim they have 'nothing else to do'.

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  • Thanks for all the interesting comments. I apologise if any offence was caused. I will bear your comments in mind for future columns, but please be reassured this column is intended to be humorous and not to cause offence.

    Gabriel Fleming
    Online editor
    Nursing Times

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  • Are you all serious?! This article is clearly a bit of fun! Why are you getting annoyed by it?

    I welcome a bit of light hearted relief, keep em coming!

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  • Martin Gray

    Perhaps our sense of humour is entirely different from your own. It does not 'read' as a bit of fun, as is clearly felt by many.

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  • Ronald Luton-Brown

    Wrong Title for someone working in a care home! And Not so light hearted about student nurses! Bless The 'humour' never goes around so well and never in print and making it a headline not good! Bring Back the old ward Sister of many moons back, They were funny!

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