Questions people ask nursing students

You get paid to be a student? And you don’t owe anything once you graduate? Wow, you must be rolling in it.
Erm, no. Because while your standard English/Media/Arts/etc student might decide it’s a ‘no lecture month’ this month, spending the rest of their time working to fund the booze, it’s not quite the same for nurses. We don’t get access to a nice student loan. Just a basic maintenance loan (which we do need to pay back, btw) and a bursary.

I get paid because over three years I’m going to be studying full time, working full time in hospitals and in the community, and also working part-time somehow to get some form of income. Oh, and the bursary? Well, it’s paid by the NHS so you can imagine how pitiful it is. It doesn’t even cover half my rent. It doesn’t even cover parking for a fortnight. No joke.

How many people have you seen die?
Mate, it’s my first placement. I’ve seen as many people die as you have at this stage.

What kind of nurse will you be when you qualify?
A damn good one, obviously. Like this nurse cat.


Do you have to work nights?
Sometimes. I have to work 14-hour shifts too.

Is it gory?
Not particularly. The most gory thing I’ve seen is a guy who got my ward mixed up with A&E and walked in with a clean, well-bandaged thumb which had been up against a hedge trimmer. And even then he was directed to the people with needle and dissolving thread. Most of the time, by the time we see the poor folk who have got a night at the NHS’ finest, they’ve been fairly cleaned up and patched up.

Unless you count ulcerated dripping-with-pus legs, deeply-infected pressure sores, and loose stools on bedsheets as gory (smelly, yes, but gory? No chance). In which case yes, yes it is. Body fluids come with the job, I’m afraid. At first I was like, ‘Woah that’s gonna make me gag,’ and now I can happily eat a meal after cleaning up the rancid remains of someone else’s.

I have a rash on my bum I need to discuss wi…
Woah there Nels. I’m a student nurse. The key’s in the name. STUDENT. Ask me if I know the names of the heart’s valves and I’ll recite them to a tee. Ask me about the endocrine system’s FLAT PIGS and I’ll let you know which hormones are tropic and which are lipid-based. Ask me about mRNA and I’ll give some half-put-together explanation about ribosomes. But as far as medical advice, we have these things called ‘trained healthcare professionals’ and shock, horror, they’re free here in the UK, if you can believe. I’d suggest speaking to them.

Unless you want me to teach you how to do a manual blood pressure. THAT I can do.

A nurse, ey? Wit woo! *raises eyebrows suggestively* What’s your uniform like, sexy?
Sexy? I don’t know about that. I mean, it’s grey, made of some sort of cotton-based bleach-resistant material. I’m 100% certain it’s been worn and handed back in by at least seven other students and therefore has minimal blood/urine/poop traces on it. It has white piping and epaulettes signifying the year of study each wearer is at. It has a zip. The trousers give the most incredible wedgies and again are made of some sort of cotton-based stain-resistant material. My shoes are Clarks Unloops, which are so hideous I’m certain that no normal person would ever buy them, even though wearing them is like walking on a pillow. Wipe clean of course, for the faeces.

Oh sorry, were you thinking of the naughty nurse stereotype? Because, again, have you not just read about faeces-splattered shoes?

Why not just be a doctor rather than a nurse?
There is an old stereotype that nurses basically just work as a doctor’s handmaid. ‘NURSE, WE NEED THREE CCS OF EPINEPHRINE, STAT!’ ‘Yes, doctor,’ etc etc.

Sure, a doctor will lead treatment as far as diagnostics. But really, a nurse works autonomously, we have our own curriculum, training methods, clinical standards, theories, and practice, just as doctors do. We work WITH doctors, not FOR them, to help patients recover as much as they can. Nurses can become prescribers, can lead treatments, and will champion the patients’ wishes as far as possibly able.

Doctors are incredible in what they do. But we are different species. Just like vets are different to doctors and veterinary nurses are different to people nurses. Nurses and doctors and surgeons and health care assistant work in the same general field of healthcare, but we have completely different modes of working. You don’t get to the top of the nursing ladder then suddenly get the title of doctor. And doctors don’t start out as nurses. If either wants to do either, its 3-4 years back in the classroom. So no, I don’t want to be a doctor, because I like being hands-on with my patients in all areas of their care, not just the ‘figuring out what the heck is wrong’ part.

Image via Shutterstock

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