Last year, there was a nurse called Jo. Or Mike. Or Miguel. Or Beau. Or Kristen. Or Olivia.
And they taught me everything I needed to know about medicine trolleys and pharmacology and how to prep an IV and how to check a cannula was correctly inserted. They taught me the importance of taking a break. And leaving work on time. And debriefing after a traumatic incident. And how to chart and document, even if the patient says their pain is 10/10 as they sit on their bed and laugh at a new Jeremy Kyle episode.
Last year, there was a health care assistant called Andy. or Malcolm. Or Terri. Or Ameera. Or Helen. Or Lucy.
And they taught me how to give someone a bed bath while promoting dignity. How to help someone eat if they couldn’t swallow. How to brush someone’s teeth and how to wash someone’s hair. They taught me how to put on surgical stocking using plastic bags, and showed me where the secret store of biscuits was for patients admitted during the night. They taught me how to change the sheets on a bed without the person ever leaving it, and how to push a wobbly trolley across a corridor without running over my own foot.
Last year, there was ward clerk called Sam. Or Mary. or Karen. Or Sylvie. Or Sue. Or Jenny.
And they ensured each patient was allocated a bed in the right bay even before the patient had stepped on the ward. They gave me access to files when I struggled to read the doctor’s messy handwriting. They helped me with the right numbers and the right pagers and the right PDFs. They did all the behind the scenes admin work and took the forefront of patient complaints with grace and dignity – with only a few curse words in the break room.
Last year, there was a domestic called Suzy. Or Monica. Or Adam. Or Jim. Or Ali. Or Ingrid.
And they taught me the importance of organisation. They filled up trolleys with all the essentials needed for a smooth shift, somehow without even being seen. They cleaned up patients’ beds without hesitation as I struggled slowly with medication rounds. They sat with them, and laughed with them at mealtimes, sensing loneliness when everyone else was busy with admissions and discharges. All for pennies. All without getting in the way. All with precision and a sense of detail.
Last year there was a team of security guys.
And they helped keep the guy who slit his wrists in front of me from hurting himself anymore. They helped the police handle an erratic prisoner. They calmed down a woman in crisis and ensured the mother suffering from post-partum psychosis was able to still see her baby. They helped bring patients to the right place after taxis dumped them at the front doors of the hospital. They kept me safe, at the cost of their own sometimes.
Last year there were frail patients.
Like the 101-year old who told me stories of her dearly loved and long gone husband, who’d passed away thirty years ago at a ripe eighty years old. Like the ninety-year-old who survived bombings and life without electricity or cars and who refused to buy a washing machine because her washing board and two hands were enough. Like the seventy-year-old who was slowly suffocating to death after a lifetime of smoking, who begged me to take him outside for another fag, who insulted me when I refused.
Last year there were patients too young to deal with the things they had to deal with.
Patients in denial. Caught up in grief and sadness and loss. Patients who felt there was nowhere else to turn. Who were given years, months, weeks before their life was to end. Who endured treatments and trials and all the tribulations that come with a diagnosis with no cure. Who had said goodbye to their family, as I retreated outside to shed a quiet tear for their unfair circumstances, thankful for my own good health, feeling guilty for feeling that way.
In a year of being a nursing student, each person has taught me something, from having a thick skin and sucking it up when things aren’t going my way, to being grateful for waking up each morning able to breathe and move without restriction, without someone to rely on. They’ve taught me never to go a day without telling my loved ones how much they mean to me, and being patient with them when sometimes things frustrate me. They’ve taught me that life is far too short, and sometimes far too long. They’ve taught me what not to be, what never to be, and what I want to be. Always.
To each person, I’m thankful.
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