24 February 2009

I'm no Angel

I was once an angel.

Not the winged ethereal type, but as close as you can get on earth - a nurse. Various polls over the years have placed the 'caring profession' in the upper echelons of the most respected and valued members of society.

Or they were once.

Now they're found humiliating pensioners, sitting around ignoring pleas for assistance, only getting off their terminally lazy arses to spread whatever superbug is the Daily Mails scaremongering soapbox of the week with their very poor personal hygiene. Considering the number of dirty nurses there are wandering around the NHS it's amazing that they don't die more frequently themselves. Perhaps the psychological immunity from the vilification of the right wing press creates some kind of physical immunity to the various diseases they spread around with their nonchalance to hygiene standards...

Of course that's not true. It's a sad fact that people who come into hospital are generally sick already, and not as resistant to the various bugs that are thrown (not literally) at them. Hospitals up and down the country have endured what is often called the 'Winter Vomiting' bug, or norovirus.

Norovirus is a nasty little bugger, having been there done that myself previously, and yes I picked it up in hospital. The reason for this was not that the hospital was dirty, but because patients got sick in the community, then came into my lovely clean ward with their diarrhoea and vomiting. Rather than steering well clear of these people as you would do if they were sick in their own homes, I would clean up their incontinence and puke, and low and behold, I got it too.

And guess what? I wore rubber gloves, I washed my hands, and all the other such precautions used to reduce spread of infection, but still got stricken.

'Cos here's the deal. Nurses don't want to spread infections, particularly not if that runs the risk of them getting sick too. But they put themselves in the firing line day in day out of picking up whatever is going around, or picking up the blame when a hospital closes wards due to an outbreak.

I sometimes wonder what the public's perception is when they see headlines that read '10 wards closed at local hospital'. Do they think there are hospital beds lying empty because the wards have been shut? Do they realise that it is far more likely that the ward has 1 or 2 empty beds -or maybe even none - and the hospital has said 'You know what? There are some sick patients on this ward that came in with a community acquired infection, so if we have anyone in A+E waiting for a bed, they probably shouldn't go there, because we'd hate the risk of them getting sick. Sure, they might get sick at home anyway, or on a ward where there is no norovirus at the moment, but it's simple common sense to not wilfully expose them to it. We'll close the ward'.

It doesn't mean wards lying empty, it means not exposing someone to a risk of infection unnecessarily.

But I digress.

I was a nurse, but no longer.Some colleagues could argue that I haven't been a nurse for a number of years, having been a Ward Manager for several, but I still had some patient contact. A couple of years ago I got involved in some IT/project work that took me away from the ward, and out of the uniform, but it still said nurse on my payslip.

You get actors, writers, musicians and artist who profess to that title, but if pushed are neither published or performing.

Me: 'So you're an actor?'
Actor: 'Yes'
Me:'What might I have seen you in?'
Me:'Then surely it's just a hobby?'
Waiter:'Fuck off'

I was becoming one of these people. A nurse that didn't nurse.

To stay on the nursing register in the UK one must complete 450 hours of practice over three years. This would mean that if I wanted to continue to call myself a nurse I would have to average 150 hours, or 20 shifts per year.

I have a lot of friends that will quite happily work on their days off for extra beer money, but I've got to a time in my life where I enjoy the routine of having every weekend off. And more's the point, mrsslippy has to work very few weekends either, so why on earth would I want to spend nearly half my weekends off working wherever would have me just so I could still call myself a nurse? It's not a one way door. I can let my registration slip, and should I ever get the desire to put the uniform back on, there are 'Return to Practice' courses that could bring me back up to speed. I've already been so long away from the shop floor I just wouldn't feel able to do it to the best of my abilities.

So I'm not a nurse anymore, in either name,function or registration. And for the first winter in living memory I haven't picked up some god awful diarrhoea bug at work.

My only problem now is, when people ask me, that the hell is it that I actually do?

If anyone says IT I'll kill them.

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