2nd Year Intellectual Disability Nursing student Ciara gives us an insight into the glamorous life of a student nurse.
People say that being a nurse is a vocation, something you were born to be and do. But I don’t remember ever being called up and asked if I wanted to wipe bums and have back pain for the rest of my life. If I did receive this anonymous phone call then I was most certainly drunk said to say I agreed to it. Despite the sexy smells, aches from lack of sleep and patients who are most definitely out to get you, being a student nurse has changed how I see people and more importantly the world. I am more open minded and I laugh as well as cry a lot more often than I used to, because every day I work in a ward or unit I see something that shocks or amazes or changes me. I have learned to have a thick skin because not everyone you meet will tiptoe around your feelings, but also that sometimes being a soft and vulnerable mother-figure is all you can do for a patient.
Every one of my nursing books makes an attempt to define nursing and my role as a student nurse – but none have really hit the nail on the head with regard to the social and personal side of nursing but here are some home truths.
You’ve said farewell to your social life and your friends no longer think you’re dead after two weeks of not seeing your face – they now know you’re on placement and the only way they’ll see you is if they show up on your ward with an illness.
Your shoes are your new best friends. Nurses are on their feet every minute of every twelve hour shift and before long you become attached to the comfort of your hideous clogs. You shop in Skechers, Barratts or Crofts, and steer clear of Schuh or Footlocker because in all seriousness anything they have to offer is too fashionable and far to cool for you now.
You’ve wiped other people’s behinds more times than your own. Let’s think about that one for a second.
One of the first things you notice about a new guy friend is not “how sexy his hair looks pushed back” – it’s what beautiful, cannula-friendly veins he’s got.
You think it is acceptable to use the words “penis” and “vagina” in a normal, everyday conversation. Even with strangers and new people. Maybe even with your parents.
Your eyes glow green with jealousy when your friends talk about hour long lectures and going home from college at 3pm. Two hour lectures and 9-5 (sometimes 6) college days are classic nursing student woes.
You now own the most unflattering ill-fitting pants in the history of the universe. If you are unlucky enough to be in a hospital that has an all-white uniform, then you are well acquainted with the giant white monster herself – the Granny Panty.
You know the names of all the sweets in the Cadburys Milk Tray. Patients love giving gifts to say thank you, and it would be terribly rude of you to let them go to waste. Besides, let’s face facts, you have no self-control.
One of the first things they tell you is that documentation and charting are of vital importance. ‘If it isn’t charted it didn’t happen’. So documentation and reflection are now your favourite pastimes. Actually they’re your only pastime, because don’t forget you have no life anymore.
Your friends give you weird looks when you laugh at Grey’s Anatomy. Ninety percent of the things doctors do on the show are things that nurses do in real life. And there is very rarely time to sit in patients’ rooms and chat like that.
Tea and coffee are your greatest allies. Not only will they keep you awake (as well as being your ‘lunch’ on many occasions), but sometimes all the patient, as well as their family and friends need, is a cup of tea. It helps to soothe almost all dramatic and traumatic situations.
Friends and family members call you for advice on medications and diagnosis, even though you’re only in second year. And you, glad to help (more like glad to feel cool as fuck), oblige by cracking out the stethoscope to listen for abnormal bowel or lung sounds. You also ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10.
Your backpack weighs more than you; sometimes you even wish it was socially acceptable for someone your age to use a wheelie bag. Let alone the fact that three of your books together cost more than your laptop.
Last but not least, you know that KY Jelly (lube) is a great friend to all nurses, and not for any of the right reasons.