My nursing career began in April 1972, when I entered nurse training as an enthusiastic and energetic student with a willingness to learn and dedication to the task. The hours were long and we had to do split shifts at the times of most demands.
A typical day started at 7 am when I helped the patients with their hygiene needs and made up all of the beds with fresh linen. I would also attend to the routine observations and the pre and post-operative care. After assisting the patients with their lunch, it was time to have four hours off, ready to return for the second shift 5 pm until 10 pm. The next five hours were spent caring for the patients, assisting with feeding them their evening meal and helping patients to wash and get ready for bed. I remember wheeling the evening drinks trolley on the ward and the smell of warm milk, Horlicks and Ovaltine. Collecting the dirty mugs and washing them was usually the last task after a very long day.
Student nurses worked a block of night shifts every few months, generally, we worked early days and late shifts back-to-back, with either two days off in succession or as split days. This was the time I spent studying and writing assignments that had been given to us after each block of training.
I enjoyed working on all of the hospital wards and had no preference to specialising in any particular department. After qualifying, the Matron offered me a post in the new intensive care unit at the General Hospital. Intensive care was a brand new concept at the time and I was amazed at the new equipment, which although is commonplace now, it was viewed as very high-tech back then.
Part of my nurse training I spent working in the operating theatres and was familiar with high dependency needs. These were the patients who were transferred to the unit. In addition, we nursed severe trauma victims.
After my children were born I worked part-time hours on the medical unit and in addition worked as a Bank Nurse which allowed greater flexibility in terms of child-care. During this time I gained valuable experience in a number of settings, for example, I worked on the medical and surgery units, including gynaecology, orthopaedics, trauma, children’s wards, ear nose and throat and ophthalmology.
As my children grew older and needed a different kind of supervision, I took on a role as Staff Nurse in the Diabetes Treatment Centre. As part of my personal development, and career progression I studied part-time with the Open University and successfully gained a BSc in Biological Sciences, with the Open University. In addition to this, I also studied for a Teaching and Assessing diploma so that I could teach student nurses in the clinical setting.
The role of Practice nursing was beginning to develop during the 90s so when a post was advertised for a Practice Nurse at a GP surgery in a nearby town, I applied for the job and was successful. This was an exciting time for me, as I held my own clinics and was given a lot of responsibility and autonomy. The majority of the work was chronic disease management clinics, childhood vaccinations, women’s health and treatment room duties. Although I had a lot of experience with diabetes care, I studied for a diploma in Diabetes and later a diploma in asthma management, as I was regularly reviewing asthma and copd patients.
Over the past twenty years, the role of the Practice Nurse has developed rapidly and we see a wide range of conditions, both physical and mental health problems. Public health and health promotion are central to the role. We now deal with minor injury and trauma as well as travel vaccine clinics. Many investigations previously undertaken at the hospital are now done in the Practice using high-quality desktop analysers and wifi technology. Lung function testing and heart tracing are all part of the everyday tasks.
Throughout my long and interesting nursing career, I have met many people from across the whole social spectrum. I have seen much pain and sadness. I have listened to many sad and tragic stories and witnessed heart break beyond measure. That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments of joy. Giving hope and good news and helping patients to recover is very rewarding and helps to compensate for the less joyous side of the job.
Further details of my nursing career can be found on my LinkedIn profile.