10 things NOT to say to someone who is depressed

  1. How are you? if you don’t have time to listen to their answer. How often have you had someone ask that same question as they rush on by, not waiting for an answer? If you must say something or if you want to acknowledge that person as you walk away, say something like ‘Good morning, nice to see you.” or “I like your hair/dress/your outfit etc.
  2. You look well or you look alright to me. Perhaps they do on the outside but on the inside, they might be feeling suicidal. And your comment just might come across as insincere. When I was depressed and anxious, every time someone told me I look well, I just felt like punching them.
  3. What have you got to be depressed about? You’ve got a good job, husband, a lovely home etc. A person can have all these things but still be depressed. Depression can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.
  4. If someone is suicidal don’t say What about your children/husband etc? Unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. If a person is feeling suicidal you might want to ask if they have a plan, how will they kill themselves, do they have the means i.e. gun, knife, tablets, when will they do it i.e. is there an anniversary/birthday coming up? Asking these questions does not make a person feel suicidal but by asking them, it shows you care and that you are taking their concerns seriously.
  5. There are people way worse off than you. Do you really think they care? I know I didn’t! I was in such a deep and dark place, I couldn’t think about anyone else.
  6. Just think happy thoughts or you need to snap out of this. While practising positive thinking is known to be beneficial, it’s not enough to cure someone of depression. If this was so easy, we’d have nobody with mental health problems. You might want to say something like “I’m here if you want to talk.” or “Is there something I can do to help?” It could be something simple like doing the dishes, making them a cup of tea or a light lunch if they’re not eating.
  7. It can’t be that bad. It obviously is for that person. Minimizing the pain of another person is not helpful and, for people who are dealing with depression, can be very hurtful and harmful. However much you think think you are empathising, you can never know for sure how it feels to be them. You might choose to say “Do you want to tell me about it?” or you might just stay silent, just being with the person often helps.
  8. It’s all in your head. This sounds dismissive at best and at worst it could sound like the person is making it all up or that they’re ‘mad’. My ex loved this one! “It’s all in your head, you nutter.” How I could have swung for him, if I had the energy.
  9. Cheer up! Your well-meaning “cheer up” might sound cheerful and supportive to you, but this oversimplifies the feelings of sadness that go with depression. People living with depression cannot just decide to feel happier. If I had a £ for every time someone said it to me…………
  10. It’s always about you. A person who is depressed can appear preoccupied with their own life and problems, which is normal under the circumstances and it doesn’t mean they are being selfish. The pressure to explain or justify why they feel this way can make depression worse and stop them asking for help.

However well-meaning, do not give unsolicited advice, give information such as where to get professional help.

First time seeing a patient being restrained – ‘for his own good’

Just five minutes, a quick coffee and a ciggie then back to the ward where I was able to let myself in as I’d been given keys and a swipe card for the downstairs door. Derry had gone into Management Round which, I was informed, happens each Monday morning. Apparently, this is where the Doctors plan ward round allocation of patients, who are normally seen on a weekly basis.

The phone was ringing off the hook but there was no one else around to answer it so I gingerly picked it up, saying ‘Good morning, Lavender ….’ A female interrupted and spoke urgently “Why is my brother off the ward? He’s banging on my front door and all the bloody neighbours are out on their doorsteps. What’s going on?”

“Uumm, good morning. I’m a student nurse. Do you know who you want to speak to, which nurse?”

“Someone who knows what they’re fucking doing would be good.”

“Ok, what’s your name and your brother’s name …..”

“It’s Pauline Kennedy calling and my brother is John. He’s screaming through the letterbox now, can you hear him? Fucking arse”

“Pauline, hold on a second.”

“Not you, him, sorry.” I’m glad she clarified that cos I’ve been called some names in my time, but that was a new one. “Ok, Pauline, give me a second, would you like to hold on or shall I call you back?”

“No, I’ll hold…” she tutted. I dashed up the corridor, knocked the door to the meeting room and popped my head in to tell Derry and the Doctors. “For fuck sake.” Derry’s Irish brogue rang out and “Has she called the police?” enquired one Doctor, the elder out of two. But Derry was out the door heading for the office and I followed.

“How’d he get out?” Derry muttered to no one in particular. “Hello Pauline, it’s Derry here. Is he still there? Have you called the police? Aye, I know but okay, I’ll do that. You just keep yourself safe and I’ll call you back in a wee minute.”

“Jesus, we’re in trouble now. This guy used to live with his sister and he’s paranoid about men wanting her, that they want to have sex with her. He’s already done time for smashing the electricity man in the face with a brick after the poor man went to check the meter. John’s on a Restriction Order* so he is.”

“Here, you call the police on this number and let them know what’s going on. Pauline’s address is there,” said Derry, pointing out a page in John’s file. Alison had just come into the office and I could hear Derry filling her in while I spoke with the police. I was a bit stunned, having never been in a situation like this before, but I was able to give all the necessary details to the police.

Derry, bless him, winked and gave me the thumbs up while he was on the other line to Pauline, letting her know the police were on their way. At the same time, she’d told Derry that John was quietening down a bit. The two doctors; the Consultant Psychiatrist and an SHO** appeared at the office door. “Everything alright Derry, Nancy? Oh, hello Nancy. Sorry, I’m Doctor Shand and this is Doctor Wiles. Do we know what’s happening? Let me know when he’s back on the ward please.” he smiled and left.

“Good job there Nancy. Will you just write in his notes; what happened?” Derry asked. It wasn’t long before the ward door opened and I could see John being led in by the police and half a dozen people who, it turns out are part of the Hospital Rapid Response Team (RRT), called to assist in emergencies like this. John shuffled in head down, looking shame-faced and went to the smoking-room while a police officer spent a moment with Derry then led his team away.

The RRT was a team made up of six-seven people, mainly men it seemed, one from each of the wards, who responded when a bleep and the radio sounded telling them where to go. On this occasion, they’d been called to the hospital entrance when the police arrived with John to escort him back to the ward. The Team had now followed Derry into that tiny office and, probably being a bit nosey, I went to the smoking-room where I offered John a ciggie. I’d cottoned on that ciggies were the currency used if you wanted to engage a patient and this time was no exception.

However, sitting between John and another patient, who’d introduced himself with a cut-glass English accent as James and asked for a ciggie, I felt decidedly uncomfortable. John was muttering he wanted to kill someone and James was bouncing back and forth in his chair, fists balled tight. I was wondering how I could finish my ciggie and make my exit back to the relative safety of the kitchen without bringing too much attention to myself. Just at that, the door opened and Derry said “Come on John, you need to take your meds.”

“Nope!” John had no sooner hurled back at him when the RRT burst in and launched at him, grabbing him by the wrist, pulling him up out of the chair and on an authoritative command “Down!” to the floor. John was yelling “Fucking bastards. You fucking wait.” and struggling among the fag butts and drink slops, battling against the five staff holding on to him; one on each arm, one on each leg and one at his head. The person at his head was talking to John, calmly telling him what was happening, that it was for his own good and that he was okay. He was safe. Hell, it didn’t look okay to me. Alison then came in with a small cardboard tray holding two half-filled syringes and waited while someone pulled John’s jeans and boxers down about six inches. My heart was pounding for more than one reason and my eyes felt like they were on sticks as Alison swabbed an area of John’s right buttock then saying “A sharp pinch John.” she calmly popped one needle in and squeezed followed by another.

RRT held onto John for a minute or so and Derry said “You good John? We’ll let you up. Easy now.” One by one limbs were let go and the team dispersed. “Into the office boys and girls.” Derry continued, as if this hadn’t just happened, so I thought it best to leave too. There was a quick debrief where I learned that John had obviously managed to sneak out and no one was taking responsibility for letting him go. I felt safe in the knowledge that I’d only been given the keys prior to my ciggie break and he certainly didn’t leave with me, despite the knowing glances I was getting. The team agreed that the situation had gone well, no one got hurt and the RRT left the ward, leaving me, Derry and Alison. I observed as they documented the incident in various places and heard that someone had to complete an incident form. They chatted away, telling me that John hadn’t taken his morning medication which included ten milligrams (mg) of Diazepam, known to have a sedative effect, hence the paranoia and visit to his sister’s.

The intramuscular injections they’d given John was what the team called ‘ten and two’; ten mg of Haloperidol which has a sedative effect within ten minutes and two mg of Lorazepam which creates sedation within thirty to forty minutes. These drugs are normally used in the management of acutely disturbed patients?

Note to self: “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” Author unknown.

Acute Mental Health in-patient ward – my first morning

Beyond the door, people were milling about in all states of undress, one lady baring her breasts as she had a hospital gown on backwards and the ties were undone. Fortunately she had pants on, albeit they were large white paper ones, which covered her modesty. Others had hospital-issue pyjamas bottoms on, some bare-chested and bare-footed while some had on what looked like their own dressing gowns, clothing and footwear.

More dusky coloured walls on the left with old artwork, curling at the edges and hanging precariously with tattered tape. A large perspex covered board with photographs of unsmiley people and nametags, who appeared to be staff, hung on the right alongside a board that held welcome leaflets and other ward related information. Looks like someone had a fallout as they’d scribbled on the perspex over one particular face.

Heart thudding and having pressed the buzzer to get in I watched as this guy, who looked like an all-American Quarterback with a huge white smile, sauntered lazily towards the door. He unlocked it with one of the keys from a large bunch and nodded me in then he locked the door behind me. I guessed that, because he had keys dangling from his belt, he was staff because other than the pyjamas, it was difficult to identify who was a patient and who was staff on the ward. Man mountain introduced himself as Sam and pointed me toward the nurses office where I stood for a few seconds, hoping one of the three people in there would let me in.

“Hello. You must be Nancy, our new student. Come in now, come sit. Moreblessings get up and give this wee lady a seat now”. A young Northern Irish guy in jeans, sweatshirt and trainers raced on “I’m Derry, that’s Moreblessings and there’s Abimbola, Nancy. Would ye like a wee cuppa tea Nancy, would ye? Give us a wee minute and we’ll get ye one, eh”? I loved him already and despite some humphs and tuts from Moreblessings, I knew I was going to like it here.

The office was tiny. There was a rickety desk with some stacked filing drawers, a telephone and some office paraphernalia on it, and two old swivel chairs. Two battered-looking four-drawer filing cabinets stood opposite each other, a formica top stretched along one side of the office and held the fax machine, photocopier and few loose files. Above was a couple of  flimsy shelves holding lots of precariously balanced files and some nursing books. Dressed in a neat flowery jumper, calve length skirt with thick black tights and flat black shoes, poor Moreblessings huffed and puffed her bulk out of the chair in the far corner, between the filing cabinets, to give up her seat. Derry slid into the empty chair, leaving his chair for me.

Just at that, the office door burst open and in bungled two others, out of breath and laughing as they attempted to get their coats off in such a small space. “Yer late again Alison, Fadhili. Come on now. Hurry up.”

“Keep your hair on, I’ll just grab some coffee.” giggled Alison as she winked at me.
“You’ll just not. Come on. Some of these folks want to go home this morning.” said Derry. “Anyway, this is Nancy, our new student.” he added. Alison smiled and Fadhili nodded at me. The heat from our six bodies made the office window steam up and I was getting a rather icky whiff of body odour, badly covered up with strong but not unpleasant cologne. However, as Alison sat her neat bum on the table edge, she was closer to me and the sweet and floral scent that she wore was way more appealing. She too was wearing faded jeans with a striped shirt and trainers while Fadhili had on trousers, a shirt and tie and shiny black shoes.

Derry looked towards Abimbola who started to read out names from  a large whiteboard on the wall. “Helen, slept all night, no problems. Peter, he’s okay, just waiting to go home. Isaac, restless and sat in the day area most of the night.” He went on, discussing the twenty patients on the ward that morning. This was called handover and it happened at the beginning of each shift. It was brief and didn’t give me too much information but I dare say, enough to begin with as I had to memorise the staff names first. Finished, Abimbola snatched up his coat and heaved his large frame through everyone and left the office, waving wearily as he went. It was like a mass exodus then, as everyone else made a mad dash too.

“Coffee Nancy?” I heard Derry say over his shoulder as he went next door to the kitchen so I followed him and said I’d have a coffee with milk. Out came the toaster, cereal and coffee mugs, clattering onto the stainless steel worktop and I watched as some staff helped themselves to breakfast. Derry just made two coffees and handed one to me saying “Do you smoke Nancy?” As I nodded he made eyes at me to follow him and we crossed the narrow hall to the smoking room.

We walked into the stench and brown hazy fog of cigarette smoke, that you only get when there’s no ventilation.  Despite the windows being open, they only open about half an inch, obviously so no one can escape. Several pairs of eyes turned towards us, though many remained staring blankly at the grubby floor or at the the filthy windows. Derry sat on one of the chairs, inviting me to sit next to him and I tried hard not to show my disgust at the state of everything; the chairs with cigarette burns, the floor where people had missed or just ignored the dejected looking dustbin in the corner together with the smoke stained walls and windows.

Still, I smiled around nervously and offered my introduction “Hi, I’m Nancy and I’m a new student on the ward.”
“Alright Nancy. You got a spare fag?”
Derry interrupted “Pete, the wee lass just started today. Leave her alone.”
“No it’s okay.” I said and offered the pack to Pete then watched as others eyed the box beseechingly, willing me to offer them one too. I didn’t feel I had a choice so I was five ciggies down already and it was just gone eight o’clock.

At that, there was a loud rattling of the kitchen hatch going up and Moreblessings was yelling “Breakfast time, breakfast.” as she loped along the hall. “Time to move.” said Derry. “I’m your mentor for this placement Nancy, but bear with me and I’ll catch you up in a wee bit. I’m coordinating the shift today. Have a wee seat, chat to a few patients and see how you get on eh?”

Moreblessings was still yelling and now Fadhili had joined in this sing song. “Medication.” he bellowed and I watched as he went down the hall, knocking on bedroom doors “Medication. Breakfast. Medication.” Patients trickled out from rooms, heading in various directions, some to the hatch between the kitchen and dining room for breakfast and others towards the queue for medication. One or two just flopped on chairs in the living area and gazed at the television.

I thought I’d be best in the kitchen helping with breakfast, as there wasn’t much I could offer on the medication side. This also aided in putting a wide barrier between me and a slightly aggressive young female who was eyeing me up and down and glaring at me. There was no queue as such and people just leant over each other to reach for cereal, milk and sugar or the hot buttered toast, some burnt and some still white. Not sure if this was a defect with the toaster or the domestic, who was also busy handing out green plastic cups of hot water so that patients could add either tea or coffee. Drinks and cereal sloshed as patients shuffled to small tables in the dining area.

Vacated tables had crumbs, slops and spills so I went round the other side of my barrier to wipe some of it up, but soon shot back  when Mandy, I learned, screamed “Fucking lesbian. Stop fucking staring. Ugly bitch.” This was the young lady who’d earlier on, had her nightgown on back to front. “Oh, ignore Mandy. She harmless really.” said Mrs Farrell, this tiny, sweet domestic lady in her Jamaican twang “She just having a bad morning.”

Breakfast was almost over and the last of the dawdlers were still in the queue for medication. I popped into the office to see that Derry had allocated patients to the four staff on duty; two qualified mental health nurses being Derry and Alison while Moreblessings and Fadhili were the  two nursing assistants. I had Supernumerary status which means that student nurses are additional to the clinical workforce and undertake a placement in clinical practice to learn, not as members of staff.*

I asked Derry what I could do to help as I was feeling a bit like a spare part and quite out of my depth, what with Mandy following me, cursing like a sailor on a drunk holiday! Derry said to just shadow one of the staff and not to worry about Mandy, she’ll be fine after some medication. Alright for you to say,  I thought as I bumped into Mandy when I backed out of the office and turned with a wobbly smile to say “Hi, I’m Nancy, a new student here. Is there anything I can I do to help you this morning Mandy?”

“Ah, your a student, I thought you was one of the Doctors, I hate Doctors. Ask if I can have leave? It’s not ward round today and that’s the only time you get to ask for leave, but I’m not waiting ’til Wednesday. I need some clothes, look at me in this fucking dirty ‘ospital gear.” she ranted. I asked where her clothes were, what did she come in with and whether we could perhaps find them together. “They ain’t here. Someone nicked them in the night. Jealousy, that’s why. Jealous cos I’m a model and I get given good gear to wear. And that’s why they nick it. Fucking poofs and lesbian, all of them. And the staff, there at it too. All of them” she rambled, confusing me now, and I didn’t know what to think about her clothing. I offered to help her seek out her clothes but off she wandered, still cursing and muttering. Quieter now though.

“Go and have a wee break Nancy, you deserve it.” Derry grinned.

*Nursing & Midwifery Council, 2014

Journey to the other side – arrived at my first mental health ward placement

This is what I was training for; my first Mental Health placement on a mixed Acute In-patient ward in East London.

I’m normally a bit of a snob about public transport but, unsure whether I’d find a parking space, I headed off towards the bus stop at an ungodly hour. I relaxed and  enjoyed the ride, seeing places I’d not previously spotted when driving. Your proverbial man in a not-so-grubby mac sauntered out of a  grimy massage parlour, picking his nose with his pinky and devouring the contents. Nail bars and lots of them, a more upmarket Gentlemen’s Club next door to a greasy spoon where two young girls stood brushing their long ponytails into place, right behind the counter from where they’ll be plating up full English soon.  It was all over too soon, the hospital came in to view and off I hopped, keeping my eye out for parking I could use tomorrow.

If the reception that greeted me on arrival was an any indication of the day to come, I’d have turned on my heels pronto. It was cold and still dark when I arrived at the huge glass doors where there were too many buzzers to comprehend this early in the day. I slapped my already freezing knuckles on the cold glass and waved frantically at the obese gentleman, who was wearing a white shirt that said Security and appeared be asleep with his eyes open, behind a flexiglass screened reception desk. I heard a click, the doors opened and said gentleman nodded me in, urging me forward with another tip of the head and barked “Yes!” while I was still half a dozen paces from him.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

‘Hello, Lavender Ward please, I’m a stu …….’ Obese man harrumphs ‘Sign in. Along the corridor, left and left, in the lift, first floor’. I got the corridor bit so off I went, my trainers squeaking on the lino covered floor, loud and lonely in the silence that pervaded the building. The scuffed mint green walls were adorned with patient artwork, some almost childlike though many screamed of fear and desperation. I did wonder whether this was the right place for the display. Others may think differently but if I was visiting a relative or being admitted during my psychotic state and taken along this corridor I might have felt apprehensive. Distressed and paranoid possibly.

As the door to the lift opened, the acrid smell of pee nipped the inside of my nostrils, and I gagged at the the freshley gobbed phlegm slithering down towards the buttons. I pushed the first floor button with a spare pen and as there was no place for it in my bag, I cheekily I dropped it down the gap in the lift.

Outside the lift there were five wards and I stood at the locked door to Lavender ward with its wire mesh glass window and another buzzer at the side. I’d arrived and just took a moment to breathe.

Note to self: Must ask why the flexiglass reception and a rude security guard in a Mental Health Hospital? It certainly didn’t give off a welcoming environment.

End of term exams increased my anxiety ten-fold

Studying day and night for four exams; sociology, psychology, biology and nursing skills, stopping only to go to the loo or  shout down the phone at sales people, almost broke me. Thankfully the boys were revising for their exams too, so they understood and kept out of my way, tapping on my bedroom door only to ask if I’d like a coffee. Wine was the answer!

Pre computer, the worldwide web (www) and wi-fi, I was struggling to get my head round the biology terminology in the extra large books from the course reading list but, when rummaging in the sale box at my local bookshop, I was delighted to find a pop-up biology book for kids. Job done! I did suggest in class that this book ought to be on the course reading list.

Still, no matter how much I’d studied, outside the exam halls, I felt the familiar onset of palpitations, sweating, tingling fingers and toes. I’d read that this was the blood rushing to where it was needed ie the brain and large muscles, to activate the body for  fight or flight*. So, I had this thing where, by using breathing techniques and distraction, if I could stop the tingling before it got up to my wrists or ankles, I could prevent a full blown panic attack. Today it wasn’t working.

Standing rigid (freeze*) as the other two hundred and odd students found their way round me, out comes my tissue, liberally soaked with lavender oil; known to be another stress reliever. I desperately sniffed in copious amounts of the stuff and I wasn’t taking any chances as I dabbed the tissue on my wrists, under my nose and under my ears? The well-used tissue was then shoved up my sleeve so I could inhale at my leisure during the exams. Who cares that I smell like my gran’s underwear drawer?

Well guess who passed all four exams? Okay, the highest mark was just sixty eight per cent but I’d only gone and done it. Now this really was a big deal because, with six poor GCE’s, I’d always thought I wasn’t very clever. When teachers tells you often enough that you’re thick, it cuts to the quick and you start to believe it.

The queue for the public telephone in the student union room snaked down the corridor as excited students waited to give the good news to parents or partners. Despite the fact my tummy was screaming out for food, I too wanted to share the good news. I called the boys’ dad at work and I hadn’t even gotten the words ‘I passed all four’ out when he snapped ‘did you take twenty pounds out of my pocket this morning?’ I said ‘yes’ and he hung up. I was hurt and mortified but carried on chatting cheerily into the phone, while my heart was breaking, until my ten pence ran out.

Note to self: “Don’t let the man bring you down.” — Maya Angelou

*Flight, fight or freeze is the body’s response to perceived threat or danger and which prepares the body for flight or fight; the physiological and psychological response to stress prepares the body to react to the danger.

Favourite moment on a general ward

I really wasn’t looking forward to this placement because, not only did I dislike the area or the hospital, it was also a general male ward and generally where you get all men, you get burps, farts, snot and phlegm, in no particular order. The first time I was asked to collect mucus made me gag at the thought but holding a sputum cup of sticky green bodily fluid had me dry-retching and reaching for the ladies. I dreaded the day I had to hold male poo samples.

An lovely elderly chap called Derek, who had prostate cancer along with other age-related ailments, used to smile and wink at me when he saw my disgust and I realised it wasn’t very professional walking around with my face screwed up and my nose in the air.  He used to love telling me stories about his life during the war and how, once home with his lovely young wife, they’d never spent a day apart. He also told me that his wife was on another ward down the corridor and he missed her terribly. I’m no Linda Carter but before she went off shift that day, Wonder Woman, despite groans from other nursing staff, managed to get Doris’ bed wheeled right next to Derek’s for the afternoon. I got to see why they never spent time apart; holding hands, whispering and giggling like teenagers and dipping custard creams into each others tea.

The next morning I asked a male nurse where Derek was and, with a nod  eyes rolling upward, he said: “He’s gone upstairs.” When I asked why he replied flatly: “He’s dead!” I stopped by the ladies to dry my eyes before looking in on Doris and her family to pass on my condolences. When I heard the laughter, I wasn’t sure I was at the right curtains but Doris could see my shiny shoes and she called me in to introduce me to her family. They wanted to thank me for the humanity shown the previous day and told me how much it had meant to both parents; they’d had their final chuckles and they were both at peace in their own way now.

Most patients love good students on the ward because they’re the only ones who sometimes have time to stop and chat, to ask patients about their needs and wants. While poor nurses are run ragged doing medication and ward rounds, writing notes, and updating no end of needless care plans while phones are ringing and everyone wants a piece of them.

Note to self: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

My first general ward placement – see why I chose mental health

The first eighteen months of our uni course included general nursing and students, along with the aforementioned pushers and shovers, made a mad dash for the announcement boards to see where we’d be placed for the next eight weeks and I got ‘Gynaecology & Urology’. This was back in the day when we still had mixed wards, which was shocking and probably embarrassing for the mainly females, due to the nature of the ward.

I was so excited that ridiculously early Monday morning, in my new blue and white striped uniform with my upside down watch and the obligatory shiny new black DM’s. The nurses were all welcoming and there was a nice friendly male nursing assistant, Phil, in his mid thirties, who was to show me around the ward. He seemed to have a good relationships with both the nurses and the patients, a bit on the cheeky side, but he was lazy and would habitually  try to fob menial and yukky tasks onto gullible students like me. I quickly let him know that while I don’t mind sharing the load, I was also a mature student who needed to learn certain nursing skills as well as his assistant tasks.

A few weeks in, Phil was grinning when told me to remove a catheter from a male patient and that he’d be back in five minute to check. On his return I told him I’d completed the task and with eyes agog, mouth agape, he paled immediately, thinking that I’d followed his instructions. As students, we all knew, you didn’t carry out such tasks on your own if you’ve never done it before so I didn’t. How would I know you had to deflate the balloon before you removed the tube from the penis?

We’d learned about all the different types of poo while in Uni, one of which was fecal and was one type we’d probably never come across during our training. Anna was only forty-six and had colon and bowel cancer which had now spread to the lymph nodes and she wasn’t expected to recover. She’d called asking for the commode and she was so weak, I had to help her onto it. No sooner had she sat down she said she needed a sick bowl and immediately projectile vomited, propelling runny poo all over the bed and down Anna’s clothes. She was mortified and kept apologising as I stood behind her rubbing her back and saying ‘it’s okay, not to worry. You’re okay Sweetheart.’  while my eyes and nostrils were stinging and I was gagging silently. I really felt for Anna, I did. My heart so went out to her and I burst into tears.

I was sad to leave this placement because the staff were so lovely, always including me in their daily chats, sharing all the chocolates and laughing at me when they saw me heave at the sight of bodily fluids. General nursing wasn’t for me!

However, I’d learned how to make hospital beds, empty bedpans and clean up shit as well as making gallons of coffee whilst at the same time, remembering to document patient care in their notes to be signed off by qualified staff.

I didn’t realise how much I’d miss the patients and the relationships we built during such a short period and the times we’d laughed and cried together. I felt so humbled by this experience, when these lovely people, despite their illness, pain or suffering, shared with me their life stories and their innermost fears and secrets, some of which they’ve never been able to talk about.

Note to self: “Listen to that inner voice of yours. It’s not you, but it’s for you.”
― Kiyo Giaozhi