Life and other things

Nursing

I love nursing.

My life for the profession started when I was fourteen years old and living in India.

I caught chicken pox , and have to be admitted to a hospital. The nurse who cared for me was very special, so special that she evoked a strong desire in me to become one. A week later I went home, and it became an obsession with me, I wanted to be a nurse.

At the age of sixteen, I was still in the grip of this ambition. When I saw an advertisement in the local paper for a nurse/health visitor training , I applied in secret and thought I will tell my parents if I was called for an interview.

Within a week I received a call for interview.

Telling my parents was not easy. I come from a middle class ,well educated family ,and girls from such families in India , didn’t do nursing. They either became doctors or did a bachelors in some godforsaken subject ,so they can be married to a doctor/lawyer or a rich man. Nursing was a very lowly profession ,and as my father said at the time, I will be bringing shame to the family . My paternal grand father was a Barrister, my father was educated at a prep school in England and then went up to Cambridge to read law.

And here I was, the eldest daughter ,throwing it all way and wanting to join ” a profession not suitable for respectable girls” as my father proclaimed.

I was so set in my ambition, that  I did go to the interview despite my fathers threat that if I did, i can not come home, I was no longer his daughter.

And he was true to his word, I came back to find my things packed in a suitcase and left at the door step, and door of the family home firmly locked.

What followed was a life of struggle,I lived in the nursing school, surviving on a meagre stipend, studying and doing shift work at the hospital ,for the next three years until I qualified.

My parents had nothing to do with me for the next ten years, not until I came to England ,started working here and met and married my late husband.

When I told this story to the BBC’s programme “Home Truths” (the archive is available as “Career versus family” ) to John Peel , and later in 2003 when I wrote this for a competition in 250 words for the daily Telegraph and won the competition, I had loads of letters from listeners/readers, who couldn’t believe that Asian parents (Asians are known to have strong family values!!) could throw out a sixteen year old simply for following her dream profession. Well Asian parent do love you to distraction, as long as you fulfil all THEIR ambitions, do exactly what they have planned for you, if you want to use your own will, then they have no time for you.

Anyway so when I came to England to do further training , and then got married and stayed, I felt I have found paradise on earth. I was doing the job I loved, had a loving husband and children and I have quickly progressed in my profession , specialised in Cardiology and became a specialist nurse , life was amazing.

In the 1990s when the Blair government gave lots of money to Cardiology, the emphasis was to do as many procedures as possible, the more pacemakers, internal defibrillators we implanted the more money the department got, and covered the unit manager in glory .Ours was a day unit, it meant patients came to have the implant and all being well, were sent home in the evenings everything was done under local anaesthetic.

I was uncharge of the procedure room, but rarely I would be given another nurse to help me, I had technicians but not nurses, this meant the sole responsibility of nursing was on me. When the numbers increased a great deal ,instead of sending nurses to train for the procedure and then employ, they started giving me bank nurses, who have been out of the profession for a while and were just doing the odd shifts. They neither had the experience or the expertise. They cold read the monitor or the ECG, were nervous to be left with the patient , I complained to the management that this compromises patient safety, and was given a short shrift. The manager started nit picking , arguing and just making life difficult for me. I went to see the Director of nursing, who told me she was aware of the short comings of the manager, who was transferred here from community ,as he was a bully, but there was nothing she could do, but she didn’t want me to leave!

The Royal College of nursing didn’t even have a rep around, the nearest was some thirty miles away. There was no support of any kind coming from them.

I did resign, I felt that if I lost a patient ,I will never be able to live with it. I was fortunate ,I could afford to. There are many good nurses who have family responsibilities and other commitments, they can not afford to put their jobs in jeopardy.

I did try to go back after a while. Whichever job I applied for, I was either “too qualified” or “not qualified enough” for it! Someone who was head hunted was suddenly unemployable in that Trust because I have dared to pint out the shortcomings in care.

I did serve on the Community health council, on the Primary care Trust’s steering committee, the quality assessor for the GPs contract in 2004 , when Blair in his wisdom abolished night calls and paid them on top of their salary for everything they should have been doing as their job anyway!

I also served as the Hospital Governor at the same trust and then I became a carer for my late husband, so I feel I have seen all aspects of nursing .

But this latest hospital scandal has shaken me ,and must say am falling out of love with the present NHS and the profession that has been the love of my life.

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