Justine felt hurt and betrayed when a student she had tried to support made accusations against her.
I had worked for many years with a patient group who had poor communication skills and limited understanding, leaving them vulnerable to many risks. Some of these patients had a reputation for making false allegations towards staff and other patients and I recall supporting colleagues through this experience, thinking how tough it was. Somehow I managed to avoid this situation and was never on the receiving end. Then I started working in nurse education…
I entered nurse education with all the enthusiasm, passion and commitment (and maybe a little naivety) that I take into most things in my life. I had a romantic idea that I would inspire the next generation of nurses - no longer was I making a difference just when I was on shift, I could now make a much bigger difference with these nurses of the future. Making lives better for not just a few patients but for many, many patients.
I am by no means perfect, not as a nurse nor as a nurse lecturer, but I try, I care, and I do my best. One of my faults is I often get too close to my personal students, I instantly become their big sister and want to nurture them through the course - even with students of my age or older!
One day I received an email letting me know that a complaint had been made against me. A complaint of an extremely bad nature, something no-one wants on their record – racism. Not only is this an awful thing to be accused of, but I also had this feeling of betrayal - I had really supported this student, I’d tried to be her “big sister”.
I was informed that the student making the complaint, if I was found guilty, wanted me sacked. Wow! Twenty years gone like that! Really? Could that happen? The duration of the investigation was awful - there really is no other word for it. I burst into tears in my colleagues’ office (this is extremely out of character), I struggled to sleep for nights on end, I felt stressed and run down.
But before the investigated finished, the student confessed that she had made it all up.
I was relieved when she has confessed, it was over and my career gets to survive another day. But then it hit me…hang on… I’m only partly relieved…. this person wants to be a nurse, wants to work with that same vulnerable group that I did. Now I am worrying all over again…
Justine Barksby is a lecturer in learning disability nursing at University of Nottingham