Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Metal Nurse Spaketh: 15 years in Healthcare

15 years now. This month I have worked in healthcare for 15 years. I can't say with much honesty that I have loved every minute of it. I have loved more then I have loathed it, that is for sure though. Out of those I spent 14 years and 6 months as a Healthcare Assistant/Auxiliary Nurse/Healthcare Support Worker/Clinical Support Worker/Nursing Auxiliary.In the last 6 months I have worked as a registered nurse. I sort of fell into it when I applied for a job in the local nursing home which mainly appealed to me because of the hours. And I found that I was actually good at it and (more importantly) people actually liked me for me. That was a new and fresh experience. I spent three years there and actually loved every minute of that. It was there where I first came across palliative care and the horror that dementia can inflict on people. This is also where I did my first Last Offices. Where dressed my first wound.  It's where I first learned how to make a plait!

While I was there I got asked frequently if I thought about becoming a doctor. I looked at the doctors who worked in that nursing home (it was part of the healthcare centre) and just saw how utterly exhausted they were. Generally if we were lucky we had two GP's, but most of the time it was just the one. And they (he, she) had a case-load of 2000+ people in an area that would take around three-four hours to drive across. No, I did not want to be a doctor. Besides the idea of spending 5-6 years in Uni (and then specialize) did not make it look any better. So I decided I wanted to become a nurse instead. Which was an unusual decision for someone of the male persuasion to want to do, in a town full of fishermen.

Then I moved to the UK in 2003. The plan was to do the NVQ's and then get into Uni and do my nursing. I found that although I like reading and learning I wasn't very academic. Which is why I liked the idea of doing the NVQ's. It seemed more practical, more hands on. Also it seemed for reflective. It was a five year plan that due to one reason and another got stretched to 12 year plan.

I was (and still am) slightly horrified at the state of the nursing homes in the UK. I am sure that there are nice private nursing homes out there. But I haven't come across a lot of them. And the two I worked in had some lovely staff but also had some not so lovely. I spent three years doing that. I learned a lot, I especially learned a lot of what should not be done.

Then in 2006 I got a job in the NHS. And I have stayed with the NHS ever since. I first got my break working in Mental Health. My wage nearly doubled. I had a decent amount of annual leave! Sick pay!! Holy mother load sick pay!!! People in the NHS really didn't know how lucky they were/are.

So yeah, I spent six years working in Mental Health, enjoyed most of it. Met some interesting people, both staff and patients. I finally managed to do my NVQ 3 when there. And I was trying for some time to push my career a little further. I got bored easily, I needed a new challenge. But it was for most parts more challenging and interesting. Mostly my interest were about physical health in mental health. As it seemed to me that it was a pretty neglected aspect of their care.

I worked within the acute hospital for 5 years (two of which overlapped with working in Mental Health). I applied for the bank with the hope to get a job on one of the wards. I never did get a job, not for the lack of trying. But hey, it worked out pretty good in the end. I really enjoyed being on the bank and I made a point of doing at least one bank shift on each ward. As can be expected some wards were nicer than others. My favourite place to work was ED. And after a couple of bank shifts on there I had fallen in love with that type of nursing.

In 2010 I made my first application for university. Didn't get in. Then in 2011 I applied again, this time I got accepted for March 2012. My mind was set on doing Adult Nursing. I figured that with my experience of working in Mental health that it would only improve my holistic nursing skills. And as I said previously, I wanted to work in ED.

Then in 2012. My training started. The group I was in was small, but full of awesome people. I really did enjoy learning in a university setting. Essays were maybe not my forte, but the good thing about them is that it forced me to read, it forced me to evaluate evidence and it forced me to really think about my nursing practice. It essentially changed my whole viewpoint on life. For example it was pretty hard to be indifferent on the vaccine issue when you meet people in their 70’s who had polio. Or were deaf because of measles. It was pretty difficult to be indifferent about helmets on cyclists when you come across people who, well should have used one. Or take care of people who've had strokes and not think of what risk factors you've got that you can  eliminate.

Because of procrastination I started writing other stuff that were unrelated to my studies. Mostly I started writing about music. But this has now evolved into writing about nursing stuff. And with reading other blogs like Respectful Insolence and Skeptical Raptor, I always make sure that I reference my healthcare related blogs as much as possible. It is still a source of pride when Skeptical Raptor asked if he could reblog my Flu Vaccine article.

During my training I did several placements, mostly in the hospital. I don’t think I had a bad placement, I had  a couple dull ones. But not really a bad one. I did do one in a nursing home, which I have to say almost rebuilt my hopes for the state of nursing homes in the UK. I met some awesome people. I took care of some awesome people. I learned a lot. But two placements stood out, CCU and ED. Those two placements really dug into my skin and have never let go since. What really got me was just how much nearly every subject interested me, stuff that I hadn't really paid much heed like sexual health, oncology, diabetic care and cardiac care. I was amazed at some of the technology that we have in healthcare and how much we take for granted. For example day surgery, I don't know how much people realise how amazing it is. I mean common, you walk in in the morning and walk out in the afternoon. We have managed to replace porcine/bovine insulin with genetically modified human insulin. We can replace organs. We can replace hips, knees and ankles! We can keep someone who's got a shot kidney alive with dialysis! Medical technology is amazing, and it just keeps on getting better. Yet, more often than not, people either don't notice that or ignore it.

I qualified in March 2015 and I got the job I wanted. ED. And I loved every minute of it. It was everything that I had hoped for. There was variety, there were different challenges on every single shift. I took care of a lot of awesome patients. I worked with a lot of awesome staff. I got into situations that normal people shouldn't have to deal  with. And it made me appreciate my life a lot more.

Now after six months as a staff nurse and a lot of soul searching I am on the move again. This time I’ll be on a medical assessment unit. No, it's the continuation of it. And so my healthcare saga continues. I do think I am very good at this job, not perfect, not great. But good enough to always keep on learning how to be better.

I cannot imagine doing another job.

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