If you’ve not done as well as you hoped in your exams and are worried about your career options then read on. I left school in 1989 with 4 GCSE’s and I’m now part of the senior nursing team in a busy district general hospital. It’s who you are and how driven you are that will take you to your future.
I passed an entrance exam for nurse training and in 1992 I started at Sefton School of Nursing. The first winter of my training brought home the reality of commuting on a bike, my RD400 was not up to the job and with all the books that were needed it was not practical. So I had to give it up and buy a mini. I still got wet though as the floor pan leaked. During each winter it was not uncommon for the windscreen to need defrosting inside and out!
I moved to Liverpool and lived in the nurses accommodation. It was a lively place to live with something always going on, especially at night!
I had a girlfriend living in the same accommodation block. She was in the year above. I could tell from what she was doing that life’s as a student was going to be great. Learning to become a nurse taught me more about myself, my friends and the world than I thought was possible. Most of this was during class and on placement but the halls themselves and nights out in town certainly helped!
The first 18 months of training was all based around health. Its focus was how the person develops. Right from creation through gestation, childhood and into old age. I became fascinated by the physiological processes of illness and how the treatments worked.
About halfway through my training I had a placement on the Orthopaedics outpatient clinic. I met an elderly gentleman who had injured his hand whilst gardening and developed a contracture in both of his hands. His hands were closed tight, like claws. The first stages of his therapy involved surgery to release the tendons and then stretching splints to slowly open his hands back out. He had a wound infection which we were also treating. As myself and the senior nurse took the dressings down, cleansed his wound and redressed his hands he recounted stories from Liverpool during the 2nd world war and its slow
Making that time to enjoy listening to his life stories was powerful. It taught me that it’s not necessarily the uniform or the title of the carer that was important to this person but us taking the time to listen and talk to him. Obviously the treatment and antibiotics were important, but the therapy we provided by listening and talking was equally as effective at getting him to a healthy place.
A turning point for me was when I was placed on the maternity unit. This was when I realised I had shifted from someone enjoying fixing bikes for a living, into someone enjoying learning how to deliver a baby! I spent 6 weeks rotating around maternity and was the only male nurse in sight. That change made it hard for me to connect with my friends back home, I still kept in touch. But I was changing. These changes were brought home to me even more during a week of nights on the post natal ward.
Each night I helped to feed and get to sleep new born babies. This was not an episode of “the midwife” though. This hospital was surrounded by areas of poverty and deprivation, it was not far to Kirkby, at that time a large conurbation with high levels of drug use and crime. Whilst some of the mothers slept as I nursed their newborn others escaped through the security barriers to buy drugs.
But this was Liverpool. This was a city I loved and was proud to be part of. Seeing this served to make me want to make a difference and confirmed my decisions to study to become a nurse as correct.
The following placements included nursing homes, mental health units and then it was the onto the hospital wards.
This was halfway through the second year. It was now that all those skills we had practiced in classrooms, in between the various health and ill health lectures, were brought to life. The second year confirmed again that was what I wanted. Responsibility, trust and really busy shifts.
Whatever was happening I felt well supported, I knew where to go to get help and there was always a more experienced nurse to help out with a tricky question. Moving into year three brought another change. Year three was where you were the second most senior person on the ward and at night you could be the most senior nurse! I loved it, I thrived on the pressure and loved the responsibility.
The last module of training focussed upon the final stage of human existence, death. During this module we had a fantastic teacher, Chris Jones. Chris was a practice educator on the intensive care unit at Fazakerly Hospital. He brought alive patient scenarios in the classroom and often called us out individually to solve scenarios and work out what was wrong with a patient and what treatment they needed. Teaching by terrorism he called it. Certainly kept us awake after a busy night in town!
My last placement was on the Walton Hospital Neurosurgical intensive care unit. I had friends already working as newly qualified nurses on the unit and loved the experience, again it was daunting but made me want to become an ITU nurse. With Chris’s teaching in my head and the placement completed I applied for a job at the Liverpool Cardiothoracic centre.
But first we had to graduate. Time to get dressed up and hit town!