Reflecting (because every nurse loves a good reflection)

Did you know my blog has lasted longer than my nursing career did??

A failed career in Sports Science- well it was a career that never started thanks to my lungs resulted in me falling into nursing. I never thought I would be a nurse. If you were to ask people what I would end up doing as my career (albeit short) it would not be nursing. It would most likely be something to do with sport.

I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single minute of my nursing career (there may be a few exceptions but generally). From day 1 at uni to what turned out to be my last day (I wish I knew it was at the time).

I have looked back and have some key highlights from over the years.

First Year Student Nurse-

  • The first day of uni and sitting in a lecture theatre with about 250 students and not knowing anyone, wondering if I had done the right thing.
  • Pulling on my student nurse uniform for the first time and feeling so proud
  • My first hospital based placement in the Renal ward and working out that Cat was actually my cousin.
  • Fainting on the ward after a patient split their head open and being fed toast by Sheila the ward clerkess who also kept asking if I was sure I was not pregnant!

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Second Year Student Nurse-

  • Being a student nurse on the high dependency ward, having an asthma attack on the HDU ward and then later that day being a patient on the ward.
  • My ITU placement at the Western General where I got to see brain surgery and also on night shift looking out the window of the break room and seeing my bedroom window. It made for really long night shifts.

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Third and final year student nurse

  • Once again fainting but this time in theatre while wearing a lead dress as it was radiology. It was an 8 hour operation to stent a renal artery and it was very hot so down I went, stumbled out of theatre and fainted again in one of the consultants offices!!
  • Being terrified that I wouldn’t pass my degree as I could not revise properly because my grandpa was seriously unwell and had major heart surgery in the lead up to the first lot then was on palliative care at home and died just before my final ones. Thankfully stuff must have sunk into my brain and I got my degree with distinction.
  • Management placement in renal and always being told I ask a lot of questions, but also always asking people to test me as I was applying for jobs so wanted interview practice. Turns out that practice was not great as had an awful interview but thankfully got the job.
  • The day I got told I had a job on the renal ward I was on nightshift and remember Laura the other student nurse from my year also had an interview but neither of us knew if the other person had got the job so we were super awkward around each other till we both knew!!

Of course the biggest highlight of my time as a student nurse was graduating and getting a distinction in my degree which meant I could go on an register to be a staff nurse with the Nursing Midwifery Council.

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I had 3 years of being a student nurse and then 7 years being a renal nurse where I spent all my time in Renal. Oddly I hated learning about the kidney in school and spectacularly failed my Biology AS Coursework which was about the kidney!! I was not much fussed for the kidney at uni either but once on the ward I found it fascinating. I think its because I am a practical learner!

It has been really hard to pick just a few highlights or memories that have stuck with me from my time as a staff nurse on the renal ward.

  • Pulling on the cornflower blue uniform for the first time and sitting in handover waiting to be given my first patients. I was so scared. I kept thinking what happens if I do something wrong or kill one of them etc. I had millions of scenarios going on in my head all negative of course.

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  • Every nurse will remember their first cardiac arrest. I heard the arrest buzzer go off and I was standing next to the crash cart when it happened, so I grabbed the cart forgetting to unplug it from the wall and off I went. I didnt get far before I jerked back and knew I had forgotten to do something fairly vital!
  • I did a bank shift on the transplant ward. I knew about kidney transplants as had dealt with patients who have had failed transplants etc but never really spoken to someone with a new transplant and one that was working. I was curious. It turns out that patient taught me a huge amount. Firstly they don’t take your old kidneys out if they don’t have to and then when asked to see what their scar was like and helloing them pull their jumper up thinking the scar would be at the back I was shocked when they started unbuttoning their trousers. Transplanted kidneys go in the pelvis!
  • Catching a patient who had really horrific bloods and lots of fluid on board munching on lots of crisps. When advising the patient that perhaps they shouldn’t eat them as they are so high in salt and this will make them super thirsty etc. I was told that it was ok because they were cheese crisps and not salted ones!! I must say I couldn’t help but laugh.
  • In the ward you get given 4 patients a shift on day shift. Either one bay of 4 people or 4 side rooms. I had a bay of 4 people this particular shift. We were also due for an inspection this same shift. I start to get all my patients up and washed, go for my break with one patient left to wash. Come back from my break to find water pouring out from under the bathroom door, one patient not in their bed so I think they must be washing themselves. Next thing I see is the clinical nurse manager coming out the bathroom soaking wet with the patient. She had decided to be helpful and wash my patient before the inspection. I was very grateful to her for doing this by my goodness she made a mess!!
  • There is of course the Christmas parties, tea parties and just general camaraderie of being part of a team.

When my lungs got too much for me to keep working on the ward and when patients were offering up their beds to me as I looked so unwell I was given the chance to move to the Community Dialysis Team. This was a job I loved. I could spend time with patients, work their treatments around their life and felt I could really make an impact to their lives. Of course there are some memories from this role too

  • Being back in my own clothes and everyone calling me Dr- I think because I wore chinos and a shirt or chinos and a polo shirt.
  • My first day being shown the ropes and managing to burst a bag of peritoneal dialysis fluid all over a patients bed (I was mortified).
  • Coming into work but not feeling great, which was then made worse by people smoking at the doors so I ended up in quite a bit of difficulty to the point that my boss found a wheelchair and basically ran with me in it to A&E. So embarrassing and terrifying (not the attack but the wheelchair driving!!!)
  • Seeing patients transform as they start dialysis and really getting to know them, and help them get their treatment optimised so it can still fit in with their lifestyle so they can pursue their hopes and dreams.

Over my entire career there is one moment that stands out above and beyond everything else and that would be when the whole renal team and chaplaincy worked together to pull off a wedding for a patient who was still very young but had to withdraw from dialysis because all her access failed. The wedding was put together in an afternoon and each department did their bit to being their bit of special to the event. It was lovely to see everyone doing what they felt was right from decorating the rooms with the christmas lights, to getting 2 beds into the side room, sneaking in some beer and champagne to celebrate the marriage. It is not only an event that is a moment in my career I won’t forget but in my lifetime I won’t forget.

In this blog post I could go on and on and write about so much because I have really loved my time as a renal nurse. There have been lows but then there are lows with all jobs.

The biggest low for me is that it has come to an end and I couldnt really say goodbye. My last day as a nurse I didnt know it was going to be my last day. Often when people leave their jobs they know they are moving on and retiring so can say goodbyes. I didnt. I have so many people who have been so influential in my career and so many patients that have shaped me as a nurse that I would have loved the chance to thank them and say goodbye.

For now I am no longer working as a renal nurse. I might one day be able to go back and practice again once my health is in better shape but for now my career is on pause and who knows the it will resume again.

For now this is me…..

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International Nurses Day

The birthday of Florence Nightingale it is only natural that this is also international nurses day given she was the founder of modern nursing as we know it.

When I left school I was the last person anyone would have thought would be a nurse. All I did was sport, all I talked about was sport. I was sport and it was all I had. A series of events happened in life and I had to rethink my career and I somehow ended up doing nursing and I could not be happier!!! I had so much fun doing my training and then got a job in an area I never thought I would end up but being a renal nurse is pretty special and I don’t think any other area you will get the same relationship between nurses, patients, Drs and families.

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This photo was taken just after we passed our final OSCE’s in 3rd year!!!

I miss putting on my cornflower blue uniform everyday. I loved being a nurse and will be back as a nurse when my lungs get better. Being a nurse is hard work, busy, never time for a rest and you never know what will happen next but seeing the improvements in patients is the best feeling you can have. Even if it is the little things like sitting chatting to them or helping them with a wash and getting their own clothes on, it is so rewarding. For me it is even more special as I have been on the receiving end of nursing care so many times and the nurses that take that extra bit of time to just do that little something means so much to me.

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This uniform means so much to so many. For me it gives me a purpose. While not being in renal this year I keep my uniform out so on days when I am feeling dejected and thinking about what I should be doing had my health not stopped me, it is there reminding me what I am aiming to get back to. My life as a nurse is not over, it is temporarily on hold, while I focus on research and getting my health better so I can go back to doing what I love with a body that can cope and the energy to give it my all.

I also owe my life to nurses. Having asthma like I do and requiring hospital treatment, admissions and appointments I come across a lot of nurses. The nurses have made sure I am alright, helped me wash when I am too weak to do it myself, helped me go to the toilet when just moving from the bed to commode is too much for my lungs, even just holding my hand when I am finding the situation terrifying because every breath is a fight and requires more energy than I can muster. The presence of a nurse just being there adds this security so I know I am ok.

When you live with a chronic condition which lands you in hospital fairly often you end up getting to know the staff in the wards. For me it is the respiratory ward. I always end up going to the same one now particularly since moving consultants. I also have to go to the respiratory ward once a month for my mepolizumab injection which is given to me by the asthma nurse specialists who take such care and will always answer questions I have or even just reassure me that I have done the right thing. One draw back which when I am not in hospital it is not a draw back is that the nurses now know me well. They will not hold back when they know I need pushed and just to buck up a bit. They will tell me to stop being stupid or stop being grumpy etc, at the time I hate them for it but I know they are doing it for my own good otherwise I would wallow in self-pity until I snapped myself out of it. Equally those nurses know when I am not doing well and am struggling, because they know me they know when something is up.

In NHS Lothian there is an awards night which celebrates the work of different people across the trust. Not only nurses, but Dr’s auxillaries, domestics anyone. The shortlist has just been released and it was fantastic to see one of the nurses from Ward 54 (the respiratory ward I attend) is up for Nurse of the year. I am thrilled as he is super. I have known him for a number of years, he is always so caring and takes time with his patients even when he has 101 things to do you never feel like you are being rushed, he gives you the time you need. He also always speak to your relatives and takes an interest which is really special. Nurses just now are stretched beyond belief, moral is low and nurses are required to do more and more jobs than before but with this nurse you would never guess. I really hope he does win the nurse of the year as he is so genuine and acts the same way to all his patients.

I want to thank all the nurses who have looked after me and worked with me. If it was not for them I would not be here.