We’ve all woken up at 5am after a restless night, made our way along a strange bus route towards a placement that from the get-go didn’t sound overly appealing.
We have all been there. But we buck up, crack on, give a smile and say everything is fine when pressed. Then, sometimes, along comes a placement where you simply cannot grin and bear it anymore.
This is the story of how I turned a bad placement into a good one.
From the moment I arrived at the care home I knew something was wrong. After spending my first week trying to understand what was going on, all I observed were the residents being shouted at, demeaned and neglected.
“This is the story of how I turned a bad placement into a good one”
There were no supplies - gloves, aprons or dressings - and the drugs were administered haphazardly. I refused to do a round saying I didn’t feel ready, but actually I didn’t feel safe.
I asked a member of the team when it was they did moving and handling training, to which she replied ‘what’s that?’ as she dragged an older woman out of bed. I tried to find out who the home manager was but was told there currently wasn’t one. There was no one in charge.
“I refused to do a round saying I didn’t feel ready, but actually I didn’t feel safe”
When the care commission pulled me aside to ask my opinion I had to be honest. ‘This place is a hellhole’ I said and she nodded. I listed flaws from a lack of stock to uncaring staff. I later received a phone call telling me not to go back the following Monday. I was relieved.
“I felt like leaving nursing forever”
I felt like leaving nursing forever. It was the end of my first year and I was hating it. Witnessing an ugly side of care had broken my heart. I was moved to another care home but I was deflated and unenthusiastic, ‘What’s the point?’ I thought. I’d given up.
“Everyone had the time because the staff were efficient”
However, this new care home took me by surprise. The new building with its large, bright, open corridors and views of the garden with the rolling hills beyond was further complimented by the sweet smell of fresh flowers and its amazing food - with a choice of wine, whisky or brandy to follow. It put my homemade sandwiches to shame. This was a happy place.
I could sit with the residents and listen to their stories. Everyone had the time because the staff were efficient.
At my first placement there would always be the promise of activities and entertainment for the residents, but rarely were these kept. At this new home, entertainment was available daily. It wasn’t just a DVD at lunchtime or a game of chess either; the staff booked canal rides, bus tours and researched movies appropriate to the residents’ tastes.
“I have seen how bad things can get and how horrible this can be”
By the end of the placement I had stopped being so scared of everything. I spoke up for patients more. On the wards I started telling staff what I thought and becoming a contributing member of every team I was involved in. I even blew the whistle at one job I was in. I had no fear, only pride in knowing I was doing the right thing, as well as surprise at how few people actually take action.
I have seen how bad things can get and how horrible this can be. I still wonder if I want to be a nurse but at least I know that I will always be on the side of the patient, and now better understand what this means. In a way I was privileged to have such a bad placement; without knowing the hellish, how can you hope to create a haven?
Ryan Latto is a current nursing student