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Would you swap your Yuletide log for textbooks?


My daughter wants a gerbil for Christmas. It’s OK, I have done the “gerbils are for life, not just for Christmas” speech.

But she came back with: “Actually, Daddy, gerbils only live for three years, although they live for five if you keep them in twos. So gerbils are not for life they are for about half a decade - if you keep them in twos. Can I have two?” She’s definitely done her research.

They eat plastic, they need sand baths, they like to dig a lot and can stand on two legs like meerkats. They can’t moonwalk, type or play the mouth organ however. She may get two, she loves animals and there are only so many times you can get away with telling her she has bought a goat for some poor people in Ethiopia or she is sponsoring an orphaned Scottish dolphin called Dirk. Particularly as she is now old enough to ask: “Sponsoring him to do what Daddy?”

‘Christmas seems to start earlier each year. Someone in my road put up their lights on 19 November and the mince pies on sale in my local supermarket have a use by date of 12 December’

Christmas seems to start earlier each year doesn’t it? Christmas stuff lands in the shops sometime around August. Someone in my road put up their Christmas lights on 19 November and - as if that wasn’t bad enough - the “Christmas mince pies” on sale in my local supermarket have a use by date of 12 December. I don’t know if it is about marketing or just because lots of people seem a bit tired or miserable and like having something to look forward to.

Many of my students break up earlier this year - around 10 December - giving some of them three weeks away from university. Not like in our day, eh? When we had to work Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. And walk to work because there was no public transport. And cook dinner when we got home. And cover ourselves in tinsel to such an extent that it stuck to our faces and we still looked like we were going to some sort of glam rock revival the following March.

Mind you, they do have some work to do. Essays about public health and the nurse-patient relationship. And an anatomy exam and a pharmacology test to prepare for. And a mini placement. Oh and they all have jobs. In actual fact, one of them has four part time jobs.

I can’t help thinking that around this time of year most people have their heads down and are working so hard that Christmas becomes a breathing space. An opportunity to rest for a day or two and remind yourself who you live with.
I would prefer it if student nurses got a proper break over Christmas - spent time with their families, perhaps reflecting on the year, the course, the job, the future - rather than having to work themselves stupid to either survive or pass the next bit of their course.

But if that isn’t possible they should at least get a proper bursary, or better still a salary - regardless of what course they are on or how old they are. It seems to me we still think student nurses should be punished as part of their educational experience; make their working conditions a struggle so they know what they are getting themselves into. I think they deserve a lot better.


Readers' comments (2)

  • 10th December? Lucky sods! I don't begrudge them it though, I absolutely agree that Nursing is a hard, stressful job and the training even more so. Let them enjoy Christmas for crying out loud! They'll soon be back in the grind.

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  • I am on the first of three placements and will be a uni untill x-mass eve. I would like to get a transfer ( as I have moved and now spend most of my bursaray on petrol)but it seems harder than applying first time round. I would like to have a part time job ( no time too much time spent traveling ) but as soon as I say I am a student I think it puts them off ? I am looking to spending the x-mass break swatting up for my next placements and fretting over my exam results good or bad.

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