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“My 5 best memories of working as a front line nurse”

Determining my best memories of working as a front line nurse was a challenge!

I started my RGN training 33 years ago in Jan 1987 in the east end of London at what was then named The London Hospital. Following my training, the front line work in my career spanned Surgical and A&E nursing in hospital through to Practice and Research nursing in General Practice.

1) Children’s ward – as a 3rd year student nurse, my best times were working on the children’s wards (see below) but my best memory was an incredible night shift. I was in charge of a full medical ward with the support of 1 auxiliary nurse (now named an HCA) so we were under considerable pressure. Throughout the night we experienced and dealt with:

  • a. A patient (inpatient) taking an overdose of paracetamol that her relative had smuggled in for her
  • b. A patient falling out of bed, sustaining a head injury and resulting in extremely frequent neuro obs
  • c. A patient arresting in the toilet, BLS commenced, crash team called and the patient survived
  • d. We smelt burning, called the fire services, a line of firefighters striding the nightingale ward to the excitement of all the patients and the discovery that a patient had been secretly smoking in bed!
  • e. Waters breaking of the pregnant family member of a patient and quickly advancing into labour before being able to transfer her to the maternity ward

2) Special memories – My most special memory is definitely qualifying as an RGN at the hospital which had been formally renamed The Royal London Hospital (RLH) after HM The Queen came to visit us (another memorable moment!) I had dreamt of being a nurse from as early as a toddler, possible influenced by my mother who herself was a nurse. The picture below was the official photo at the ceremony (in front of some rather busy curtains!) and I can still recall how chuffed I felt.

3) A&E – As a newly qualified staff nurse at the RLH, my 3rd memory would encompass a few incidents in A&E. Here, we were so lucky to work with the HEMS staff who transferred patients to us from all over London, landing on the roof of the hospital and ringing us details on the heart-stopping blue phone. I worked in A&E at Whitechapel at the time of the Kings Cross disaster and the Bethnal Green fire, and nursed patients from these major incidents. A memory here that remains vivid is of an 18 yr old male who had died after being stabbed and of supporting his parents during the shock news but also in his organ donation and the emotional follow-through from that.

4) Working as a Practice Nurse – As a Practice Nurse, I initiated a walking clinic for patients that consulted me in the Diet & Weight Management clinic. Being in Margate, there was a high elderly practice population and we could be seen traipsing down to the seafront every week in large groups. This was coupled with Nutrition advice and I won the RPCRG GP Practice Nutrition award – the presentation in London is pictured below.

5) Working as a Research Sister – My final memory as a hands-on nurse has to be as a Research Sister. Following doing her smear test, I asked a 45 yr old lady if it was ok to do an internal examination. I had recently been on the Marie Curie Cancer Care course in pelvic examinations, breast and cervical cancer. This lady was the first ‘real’ patient that I performed this on as we had learnt on manikins. She agreed and, taking my time and after a lot of palpating, I discovered a minute lump in her left pelvic area. We immediately referred her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I recall that the consultant fed back his appreciation to me via the GPs as we had caught it so early and her chances of survival were vastly increased.

Oh, how I love being a nurse! ????

Written by Jane Charman (ECG, Clinical Governance Lead), Wednesday 19th February 2020

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