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How far are student nurses ambassadors for health?


Smoking, drinking and partying until the early hours seems to be part and parcel of the student experience we’ve all signed up to at university.

There’s an expectation from siblings, parents and graduates alike, that you will go wild - experiment, vomit in a few illicit places and eventually graduate a fully-functioning adult (hopefully with at least a 2:1).

Being a student nurse has refined me into an open-minded and non-judgemental individual. Nowadays, nothing anyone can do or say causes me to recoil, but instead provokes thought, discussion and reflection.

“Being a student nurse has refined me into an open-minded and non-judgemental individual.”

I have been fortunate to meet many different types of people from all walks of life and the student nurses I have met are an incredibly diverse bunch - academics, those with a heavily practical focus, student nurses with exciting hobbies and interests, children, no children, married or divorced.

Student nurses are the most diverse student body I have ever witnessed and it makes me proud that we have people of all races, sexualities and ages working towards a common goal: to help others achieve optimum health and quality of life regardless of their circumstances.

However, the type of student nurse I cannot abide is The Party Nurse (TPN).

“It makes me proud that we have people of all races, sexualities and ages working towards a common goal”

TPN manages to go out every night then drags  into university (hungover) for clinical skills sessions or lectures.

There is a rumour that TPN woke up in the rival university’s SU, was 6 hours late for placement and vomited pure Goldschlager in the sluice.

And TPN passed out at some point in the night and doesn’t remember how they got home.

Now, I enjoy a cocktail and a doing the whip and the nae-nae as much as the next person, but when it comes to TPN I am talking about excess, as in a bottle of wine and half a bottle of vodka for predrinks, endless shots in Oceana, and finishing up with some poor soul cleaning vomit off every inch of the bathroom excess.

“TPN cannot equate their lifestyle to being an ambassador for health.”

For the TPN, this is not one hideous blowout (which we’ve all had and lived to tell the tale) but a regular occurrence. TPN cannot equate their lifestyle to being an ambassador for health.

As nurses, we know the damaging nature of binge-drinking and the associated dangers, so why do we not all practice what we preach?

I understand everyone has their vices; I have enjoyed the stress-releasing sensation of a hit of nicotine to the bloodstream before. I often find myself wishing I had a cigarette to get me through the trauma of a long shift, the emotional toll that children’s nursing takes, and to help with the sheer tiredness I feel as I read and research endlessly for my upcoming dissertation.

I fully understand the need to let go and dance to the beat of youth and freedom surrounded by friends, and for me, letting go used to involve lighting up.

”I am training to become a children’s nurse; a superhero for children and a kind, trustworthy face for our young people.”

However, I don’t smoke anymore. This is not because I fear cancer but because I am training to become a children’s nurse; a superhero for children and a kind, trustworthy face for our young people.

I can’t justify smelling of cigarette smoke and looking after a child with an exacerbation of asthma. I cannot tell parents of a premature baby they must quit and then go for a cigarette break myself; and I cannot look after a teenager with terminal cancer after inhaling hundreds (if not thousands) of carcinogens.

I believe as student nurses we are role models and this means engaging with a healthy lifestyle. This involves eating and sleeping well, in addition to protecting our bodies and honing them further rather than partaking in destructive behaviours.

I don’t think we should be tee-total; I am calling for moderation. However, I definitely don’t think we should binge-drink and be a part of the alcohol related A&E attendances and statistics.

I don’t think we should smoke knowing the damage it does to our health, the environment and the health of others through passive smoking.

I don’t think we should be perfect, because I know that doesn’t exist. I know when we take off our uniforms we have our own crosses to bear and lives to manage.

I do think nurses should reflect the wonders of society - tolerance and diversity - but we should not reflect the ills of society we are fighting against, such as smoking and alcohol related deaths and illness.

Being a student nurse - particularly for children and young people - is a great responsibility and we should all remember this when our uniforms come off.

Peace and love xx

Danielle Garrington-Miller is Student Nursing Times’ child branch editor for 2015/16


Readers' comments (6)

  • michael stone

    'so why do we not all practice what we preach?'

    Ah, one of life's eternal questions !

    And I suspect you are right, about 'Student nurses are the most diverse student body I have ever witnessed' - it does seem likely, that nursing students are drawn from a wider pool of people, than any other degree course I can think of ?

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  • As long as HCP do not smell of smoke, contravene Trust policies or advocate negative health measures to their patients in uniform, that is not your concern. Are you going after medical students over-indulging in substances and inappropriate activities? You appear to be talking about legal substances, if people are under the influence, they will need to be undergo Professional protocol. After all, in your rationale, a overweight nurse could not look at a morbidly obese nurse and give support ! sometimes peer experience can help i.e I am a professional and I can give more empathy, and we can work together!

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  • It is not very professional of you to comment on rumours re the Party Nurse. You are talking about a human being who may or may not have issues . Maybe ,she is struggling with the course, personal stuff etc.(has she had any adverse feedback/ reports- if not why?)If you do have such significant evidence based concerns, which it would appear her Professional supervisors do not, you have a duty to report them to the relevant staff- not just she went out and ended up somewhere(not that I am sure that is your business)! If she is contravening code of conduct, the relevant staff can fufill their obligations to ensuring she is a safe practioner and she can be helped to acknowledge legitimate issues and work towards a more positive future. Nurses are not super heroes-all people are !!

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  • The party nurse is a metaphor for the drinking culture surrounding university...

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  • yet again, we see the other side of Nursing. Pick pick pick on the other nurse. You are meant to be a professional.
    what about the other drinking culture? couple of drinks when out having lunch, wine o clock at five and few drinks later?Not like that's a drinking culture?Middle aged ladies are displaying higher rates of alcohol problems , but that doesn't count .("respectable")Bear in mind also that I in five of hospital beds are occupied with patients with substance abuse issues. And as far as I am aware. smoking is not a causal factor in teenage cancer.

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  • Have you any understanding of socio-economic factors? Why are there differences in health behaviour and life chances?We do not live in a equitable society. Therefore looking at patterns of behaviour without addressing fundamental issues is not going to effective use of resources, The greatest influence on health is Wealth and Education

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