I feel honoured and privileged to have been nursing for 34 years this week.
My dream all started when I was 13 and in the old Chelmsford and Essex hospital for a tonsillectomy. I was on a woman’s surgical ward and next to me was Nellie. She had a below knee amputation and continually unwrapped it whilst shouting Nurse and this was my first experience of someone with dementia. I spent a lot of time with her and despite her confusion, fell in love with her especially when I managed to make her giggle. I also got talking to another patient who turned out to be a nurse but wasn’t amused by her colleagues. She told me that she had asked for a commode and when perched upon it, her relief turned to horrified panic as her feet became soaked with wee as they had forgotten to put the pot in. At 13 I found this hysterical, whilst also deciding I wanted to be a nurse and hoping to fulfil this more successfully – but of course it was never going to be without its hiccups. The nurses were lovely (apart from making me eat Weetabix with cold milk to “strengthen” my throat) and kept me amused by doing ‘obs’ with me and taught me how to read the thermometers.
Seven years later, half way through my mental health training, I was doing my general stint on infectious diseases and regularly using the old mercury thermometers the nurses had taught me to read years previously. It was my job one day to collect and clean them all, but I couldn’t find the hydrochloric acid cleanser so decided to soak them in the next best thing to kill germs – boiling water. Good for germs but not mercury thermometers that had all reached maximum temperature and exploded. At least I didn’t do the usual nursing faux pas of collecting all the dentures and soaking them in one bucket! That was always fun watching them work out who’s teeth belonged to who the next day.
I’m glad to say care is now much more personalised and thermometers amazing – as are us nurses.