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'We must maintain a professional distance as nursing students'

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For some reason, Mrs Wooding took a liking to me.

One day, this vivacious 80-year-old patient – flanked by two other jovial ladies of her age – called me over and started asking me about life as a nursing student.

I said the usual positive things about the training, the medical science and so on but then she suddenly changed tack and, catching me quite off guard, plunged into the question of my personal finances.

It seemed her daughter had obtained figures about student bursaries and she was concerned that students like me must have an awful time trying to make ends meet.

I was touched by the lady’s concern but felt a stab of alarm when she reached for her handbag and drew out a fistful of banknotes. ‘I tell you what,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you let me give you some money? I’m sure you could use it, and I’ve got plenty.’

Red faced, I gently pushed her hand away. ‘Mrs Wooding, it’s very nice of you but if I’m seen taking money off a patient I would be thrown off the course,’ I explained.

At this, the patient to her right said merrily: ‘Take it anyway!’ And, not to be outdone, the patient on the left chipped in, shouting: ‘Take the money!’, in imitation of someone on Noel Edmonds’ Deal Or No Deal TV show. This drew the attention of a staff nurse at the end of the ward who came over, laughing, to sort it out.

For all its comic value, this experience made me think about the subtle bond between patients and nurses and the care we must take in order to maintain a professional distance.

If we are aloof towards patients, we may seem uncaring but if we’re too close, we risk charges of unprofessional conduct. It’s a fine line to tread.

Lesley McHarg is a third-year nursing student in Scotland

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