Before I started my training, I imagined I would sweep around the wards, being at my patients every beck and call.
I imagined that only patients who needed my help would ask for it. I imagined that patients would strive to be out of hospital as soon as possible. I didn’t imagine that the word ‘no!’ would come out of my mouth as frequently as it does.
We (despite what the media would have the country believe) are caring and kind people
It’s probably the thing that I have found most difficult as a student nurse. We (despite what the media would have the country believe) are caring and kind people. Of course we are! We want to look after people, help people and care for people. I would love to do exactly what my patients and their relatives want me to do. My experience of the working world before nursing was in hospitality, and it still is, part time. I very much have the mind-set of ‘the customer is always right’. And in some respects, this has been extremely valuable. It is hard for me to be grumpy or rude or even less than smiley in the work place, because in my other job I would be disciplined for behaving in such a way.
Patient’s often remark on how cheerful and pleasant I am, even at the end of a very long night shift. It’s because being relentlessly perky is something of a pre-requisite for a hotel employee. All good things, and I am proud to say my patients receive excellent care from someone who seems happy to be there, even if I really just want to be in bed.
I find it very challenging to tell patients and their relatives that they are wrong
However, I find it very challenging to tell patients and their relatives that they are wrong. In fact, it was a fulfilling day when I refused to wipe the bottom of a gentleman who was very much capable of doing it himself, but was just too hospitalised. When I encouraged an elder lady to walk to the toilet, rather than use the commode, I was over the moon. Because I was finally realising the importance of promoting my patient’s independence, and encouraging them to look after themselves, rather than rely on me. They were truly getting better, and I needed to let this happen, rather than help them take to the sick role. Every task they did themselves was a step closer to home. And let me tell you, privacy and four solid walls instead of flimsy curtains can do a patient with constipation wonders.
Harder still I found, was standing up to relatives. Many come into hospital nowadays having read stories of terrible care and expecting the worst. They challenge us on many aspects, which I suppose is a good thing as it should keep us in line. But Mrs Smith, your father doesn’t have a blanket on because he kicked it off seven times and told me he was warm. So no, I won’t get him one, he doesn’t want it. Mr Brown, I’m sorry but no, your son can’t have any more morphine, because it was only ten minutes since his last dose and I don’t want to harm him. Those are examples of things I’ve actually had to say, because I’m finally realising that I am a clever, intelligent and well-educated nurse, and I might know a little bit more about my patients care than their loved one. I’ve realised I need to be assertive. I’ve realised that by becoming this person, I really am helping them.
I meet my patient’s needs. If they need me to feed them, wash them, help them drink and attend to their toilet needs, then I am more than happy to be that nurse. But if they need me to push them and make them realise how much better they are getting, then I will be that nurse too. But I am always the nurse who ensures that her patients are comfortable, pain-free and most importantly, receiving the fundamental levels of care a human being deserves. And then a bit more. It’s really not that difficult.
Sarah Jones is the adult nursing branch student nurse editor of student nursing times.