Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Yes. I actually learnt something (about biology, obviously) today. Which is good, in my book.

But on the negative side I've had my eyes opened to more pitfalls and downsides of my chosen career path.

Nursing is in a state of flux. To use the term 'is' is perhaps wrong as it seems to insinuate that it hasn't always been, which is has, in one way or another. But now is important to me, so that's what I'm talking about.

Articles and anecdotes tell us that there are some nurses out there who plain don't care. This is a bit of a tragedy, but hardly surprising. Public servants have become more tied down by paperwork, depending who you listen to. Paperwork is a blanket term but covers the problem rather nicely.

So, why do we have paperwork? Well, a personal bugbear of mine is this new, American-style sue-culture. Paperwork was created in response to this, in my experience. The sue-culture lead to accountability, and accountability can only be recorded through paperwork.

So that is a very simple way of explaining the root of the problem. It's the same sort of issue for the police. Paperwork Vs Accountability Vs Modern Life.

The Daily Mail routinely trots out the old 'Paperwork takes Bobbies Off the Beat' rhetoric, but through the repeated headline-grabbing-soundbytes there is a grain of truth. Paperwork has became a problem for many important public servants.

On the front of nursing, the problem is not simply paper. Other forms of red tape have been introduced in response to accountability by the giant, hairy monster that is 'Management'. This is adds up to nurses becoming occupied with arguably less important duties, leaving less time for actual caring.

I, personally, am prepared for such hilarity before my first placement. Nursing is hard work - it always has been and always will be. The reasons it has been hard have changed over time, but that's all in line with the changing world we live in.

Any nurses who have recently qualified who aren't prepared for the rigours of red tape and paperwork are, at best, naive. At worst, well... I don't want to be horrible.

Older nurses who have felt it coming over the last decade, perhaps more, have had a choice to make, in my opinion. Either they stay a job which they seem to hold in disdain because of the avalanche of bureaucracy and let patient care suffer, quit the job to go onto something which doesn't involve paperwork (Like what, I wonder?) or just get on with it. From what I've heard and experienced the first of these three is an unfortunately well prescribed choice of path.

In the first few weeks in training, the word 'care' has probably been the most used. I get the impression if you stop actually caring then you have no reason to be a nurse. Why even a small number of nurses - young and old - decide to pursue this course of action mystifies me.

Throughout my working life there have been many occasions when I've thought - or even said: "Not mah problem, luv". And I've laughed about it, or even quite sadistically enjoyed the experience. Because customers can be stupid, plain and simple (I meant the last two as the expression, but it sort of counts, too).

Patients (or clients, as the NHS seems to be leaning towards calling them) are often stressed, scared and distressed. I'm a critical sort of boy, but even in my book this gives them a little leeway when it comes to being a bit stupid.

In the same vein, being a nurse isn't like working behind a till a bar. Life, health and well-being are at stake, rather than... Well, a frozen steak or a spilled pint. Some die hard capitalists might want to argue with me, but I think that's a mostly true statement. When I worked in a well known computer games store I was head of PC Games. If someone asked me about XBox games, then, I would sometimes just shrug it off and half-heartedly explain: "'s not my area, mate,".

You read and may have even experienced nurses doing the same thing. 'Pillows? Not my problem.' 'Oh, I don't handle IVs, sorry.' This kind of attitude within the retail or service sector is regrettable and in a perfect world it wouldn't happen, but it's not the end of the world. The difference in the retail world is that, generally, you're selling something the public wants. And they're probably going to buy it from you, all things considered.

When it comes to nursing, though, this sort of attitude is despicable. It goes against anything and everything nursing stands for. To use the retail analogy, nursing (in itself and as a small part of the greater healthcare pie) is not about the end product. If you wait a while at a bar and get a pint with too much head (ooh er) you're probably going to shrug and get over it. Maybe get served by a different barkeep next time if possible, or - at an extreme - go to another pub. You wanted a pint. You got a pint. It's that simple. Nursing is more about the journey of a patient. In a large slice of occassions, nurses rarely ride in on a white charger and save someone's life. Depending where you're working in a hospital or in the community a nurse is more likely to refer a patient to a specialism or specialised department to 'cure' a patient. As mentioned, though, there is a journey from the moment a patient walks into a hospital to the second they leave - and often afterwards. It's the nurses' job to care for the patient throughout this journey.

Continuity is important, for sure, but the care is much more so. The pint example is a funny one, as there is no real place for the nurse and caring in that experience. You could perhaps chat to the customer as you pull it, giving a quick check on their personal well being, but it's not really the same. Identically, there is often no end product when it comes to nursing. Sometimes a nurse may hand over drugs to a patient, yes, but whereas a customer pops to the bar specially for a drink, most patients do not look for nurses specifically for drugs. Or any other sort of 'official' duty. The care should be of paramount importance, and as soon as staff start forgetting this you know they're in trouble. But still it happens.

Nursing is hard. As mentioned, the reasons for this difficulty may have changed, but the difficulty itself has not. Anybody going into this life choice thinking it will be anything less than hard is in for a shock - and may be part of the 8% drop out rate. Some girls on my course are shocked they're unable to take holidays inside of the academic year. If that's the worst surprise in store for them through these three years I'd count them as lucky.

Go in with eyes open, then. If you're already in and have been worn down by paperwork, red tape or any other modern evils, then do something about it. Get off the pot or piss in it, I say. Don't let the care, and by definition, the patient suffer because of it. Otherwise, what's the point?

(Additionally, thanks to Unity (over at: http://www.ministryoftruth.org.uk/2007/09/23/its-banner-time/) for my shiny new banner. Follow the link to get one for yourself.)

Saturday, 22 September 2007

New Experiences

Last night a friend and I headed to a decidedly metal/rock styled bar. No surprise, there. Pretty much uber-ordinary, actually. It had good reviews and we wanted to give it a try in this wonderful city.

But no. It was awful. Ridiculously so.

So, we decided to hit a couple of gay bars. We wanted to dance and not be surrounded by scallywags, so the gay scene is a pretty solid one for doing both those things at once.

Quite randomly, we walked into a lesbian bar in the middle of the predominantly gay area. And it was quite amazing. Although my friend felt a little bit awkward, from the admittedly new and strange situation she was placed in, she admitted it was a lot better than being stared at like a piece of meat, i.e. the unfortunate behaviour of some heterosexual males.

I reciprocated the feeling as much as a man can. I'm straight, but relatively unconventional. A pole dancing, male nurse. Need I say more? Whereas in a typical 'straight' nightclub there is a, in my experience, huge onus on boys chasing girls there was no such feeling in this establishment so there was more time to dance and laugh and other such goodness.

I mean, sometimes you just want to go out and drink and have a dance - a good time. But some men - and I'm sure some women - think a night is lacking a certain something without trying overtly or covertly to woo the opposite sex. This is fun, of course, but I can't help but feel it has a bit too much sway in some circles. Again, only in my experience, but that's what counts to me.

So, last night was a very enjoyable one. With popular dance tunes, a top class atmosphere and nothing to do but boogie. And politely fend off one or two gay advances, but that's just part of the experience, sometimes.

Good times.

Friday, 21 September 2007


I'm coming out in support of the two PCSOs who didn't dive in to 'save' the kids who jumped into that lake in Wigan.

Recently, I've been told I'm not allowed to wear my uniform coming to and from University or placement. I thought this was for some stuffy old traditional reasoning and in part it is. I was also logically informed that it had something to do with cross infection, which is very sensible.

However, the main reason is accountability. I'm in training right now. We were warned, quite starkly, in fact, that if someone had a heart attack and a desperate relative asked me to help and the man or woman in question died that I could be sued.

I can't remember when this country became America, but it certainly has.

Accountability is now a watch word for all public servants. One of the reasons I got into nursing was to help people. But if some piece of slime is going to try and take me into a courtroom because I couldn't save a life, then I'm not going to do it.

Firstly - no shit, Sherlock - PCSOs aren't fully trained police officers. I know. It's shocking. But they're not. The Police Federation have always said PCSOs are a bad idea when replacing PCs, but the government doesn't really care. PCSOs are cheaper to train and pay than PCs and so it looks like the government is getting more uniforms on the street.

They're not trained. And in the same vein, they do not have the same rights or protection afforded to PCs, because... they're not PCs.

So whereas a PC has both the training to jump into an unknown body of water, as well as the legal protection if something goes wrong, a PCSO does not. The PCSOs in question followed procedure perfectly. The romantic notion of a maverick cop breaking the rules is fine and dandy in Hollywood, but Max Payne or Dirty Harry never had the red-tape-wielding, lily-livered bean counters otherwise known as the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) ready to run them out of a job or an entire living. Recent police media-portrayed 'blunders' have forced the force to do things by the book. The media, nor the public which supports it, shouldn't cry when they reap their own whirlwind.

Even in three years, once my training is fully realised, maybe my mind will change. An off-duty nurse saved the life of my dad, once, and I like to think if she hadn't been able to I wouldn't have taken her through a legal battle.

It's a pity everyone isn't like that.

Monday, 10 September 2007

"Things Are Really Getting Better..."

So, homesickness is over. This is in part thanks my two best friends, part due to Manchester and part due to importing more of my crap into this lovely room, which I may get pictures up of soon.

I think the point I really knew things were going to get better was when I came home from a few drinks with a friend and I thought 'It's good to be home'. That was a turning point and it's got better since then, really.

Lots of walking around since then. And plenty of friend-based giggles have reminded me how good it is to be here, even if I haven't made any friends in the sparsely occupied tower block I live in.

I bought my uniform today. It's a bit baggy, but I'm told it's supposed to be large. That was fun. The big A and I made jokes in the uniform shop, which was a really dull place, but they weren't appreciated. Hmph.

We then went out to buy female pyjama bottoms. There is a recent fashion of 'boyfriend clothes'. Like shirts in a man's style but cut for a woman. So we decided to turn this on it's head. There glittery trousers I'm wearing are actually quite flattering, I must say...

So yes. Things are getting better. Although I'm exhausted and my new bed isn't fantastic for my back, it's nice to have a night in. Which I actually hope will happen. There are hints of a night out on the horizon and I hope I can avoid it. I'm down to just over a tonne, after buying my uniform, so money saving is a priority. Although my University will pay for my uniform reterospectively, I might not see that 60 squid for a while.

Live to your limits, that's what I say.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Homesickness and New Beginnings

So, despite this blog having been half-arsed-around for a while, I'm actually due to start my course soon. And actually train as a nurse, which was the original point of it.

So, yesterday I moved to University. I got in early, on the first possible day, and once I'd unpacked my basics I was somewhat bored. Two of my best friends live or lived here so they were around to make me feel welcome. We got drunk and stayed out until 5am and took silly pictures and it was better than I'd imagined it could've been.

But now I'm under siege by homesickness. It's only really myself and the international students here now, you see, and my flatmate isn't in that often - and is older and seems a bit quiet - so I'm on my own. And it's making me weep for no apparent reason.

This isn't the first time I've lived away from home. It is, in fact, not my first stint of Further Education. And yet today feels worse than when I was 18. By this time, my first time around, I'd already made two mates and had a drinking session with them to look forward to. I mean, I remember crying when I realised I was all on my own, but meeting people naturally changed that. Given I'm a 'mature' - ha! - student I'm not with the new freshers and so I'm not going to meet people in the same way. That, on top of the fact that I've moved in early, means I might not meet new people soon. And my mates in the City are all well and good, but live miles away.

No man is an island, obviously, and right now I feel so isolated. It's a bit pathetic, really. But thanks to the aforementioned night out, I've had 3 hours sleep. So I just haven't the energy to fight and be positive. I almost broke down in tears in Tesco, which is unfortunately the only real supermarket nearby. I managed to hold off on the short walk back until I got through my new room before it got to me. I cried and cried until I didn't have anything left. Then I cried some more. Sometimes, I find I need a bit of a stress release whinge, but I've found it hard to stop. I rang my mum, as I was out drinking when she called me yesterday, and I found myself overcome. Thankfully, I managed to tell her I'd be home tomorrow to eat dinner and pick up more of my belongings tomorrow before I had to take my snivelling self away from the phone.

I honestly hate feeling like this. It's not me. And usually I cry, consider and move on. But thanks to fatigue and a major hangover, I just can't seem to stop it.

Other than that, the new beginnings aren't looking too shabby. I like the city I'm in, which is close enough to home for me to head back for whatever reason. My room is big because I'm only sharing the flat with one, instead of the maxiumum of three. One of my best friends has given me a bunch of books from her mum's Diploma, so I have free literature, which I always appreciate. On the plus side this room has a recreation room. On the down side there are no video games. Just bandits. Darn it. I haven't money to lose!

I'd like to meet people soon. I don't want to live the crazy life of a kid who's never been away from home before, as a choice, but in the same way it doesn't mean I don't want to meet some of them and buy cheap ale from a student union. You can't have your cake and eat it, sure, but I'd still like to.

I wish my TV was here, too. I hate being addicted, but I like the news, and the noise, and other N words.

As for people, you might be wondering why I just don't go out and meet some. Problem is, not all new students are here, yet. There are the previously mentioned internationals and then returners. There aren't a huge number of internationals about and I don't want to be an annoying newbie trying to be cool and attatch myself to a collection of 2nd or 3rd years. That's sad.

So it's a bit of a waiting game. Back during my degree there wasn't a large move-in-period. Instead there was one weekend to move in. On each of those nights your sub-Warden, a 2nd or 3rd year responsible for your block, would take you upto the bar with the rest of your house.

Of course, that was a delightful little country campus and this is a city one. But the point still stands. It'd be nice if someone was responsible for this entire floor and got us all together. I'd forget about stupid homesickness then.

I think the main point of this whole string of thought is that I should be used to this. Which, thinking about it properly, is bollocks. I lived away from home for four years, yes, but the second, third and forth were with people I know. There are none of this. And between those years I was only home for a couple of months. So essentially I've only been in this situation once before. And I was lucky to be living with some like minded boys and then ply myself with drink in their company.

So, this is the second time. The last year I've been at home, living in cramped, but really quite luxurious conditions in the fact that I had everything I needed and my mum would cook. Now I'm on my own, in a strange-ish city, hungry and filled with trepidation. It's awful, but so was my first time. Even after meeting the boys, homesickness didn't dissapear. I remember, as we were in the middle of nowhere and I didn't bring any food, being starved, searching for something - anything - to eat on a Sunday. It was a bit of an adventure, but still scary and horrid. I hope this sadness passes just as successfully.