Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Where I was 2013

This year was a busy year.  I got used to working again.  I started to feel like a nurse.  I started to run - and I kept on running.

All of us in Kristina's socks
In March I had a lovely day with blogging friends, and Kristina gave us all handmade socks!

Going up the steps
My parents and I took the children to the Cutty Sark over the Easter holidays

My new socks match my reading material!
I knitted socks that matched my surgical textbook

Nurses' toes!
In June I had a picnic in Victoria Park with some nursing friends

View from the hammock
In August we went to see my parents in France, and I spent most of the time dozing in the hammock

Brand new running shoes! My prize from Sweatshop for being parkrunner of the month in September - VERY exciting! #sweatshop #parkrun #running #shoes
I won some new running shoes!

Done! Goodnight all. #warmtoes
I knitted some pink socks - started in the spring, finished in the autumn

Back from parkrun - waiting for the teenager to make me a pot of coffee #usefulchild
Still running - I bought myself a running skirt and some fancy socks

Which way?
Walking to university for lectures in October

His and hers blue running shoes - back from parkrun #parkrun #running #shoes #blue
Graham and I do parkrun every Saturday morning.  In almost-matching blue shoes.

The view inside #sundaymorning
A morning on the sofa after a long shift the day before

November leaves in London

Found some excellent tights at the back of the drawer #fancynancy
Excellent, forgotten tights - found at the back of my sock drawer

Heading into University to hand in my second year portfolio. So excited to be in a dress and heels and wearing perfume! #nomoreuniformforafewmonths #nursenancy
Heading into university for the last time this year - to hand in my second year portfolio right before Christmas

Festive tights! #red
Seasonal tights!
It was a good year.  A year of consolidation rather than new beginnings.  I tried to keep family life more or less the same, and incorporate work and study into it rather than let nursing dominate everything.  I didn't always manage it but it got easier as the year wore on.

It has been a peaceful but productive year, which is how I like it.

On the beach
Ending the year in Norfolk with my brother's family

On the beach
New Year's Eve beach walk in Norfolk

I ended the year with my brother and his family, who we don't get to see very often, in Norfolk.  We walked along sandy beaches under the vast empty skies, chatted, laughed, and eased into each other's company.  It was a perfect end to the year - with family... outdoors...relaxed.  Just how I like it. 

Graham and Cam #beach #sameheight
Graham and Cam - the same height now

Sunset on Brancaster Beach in Norfolk, yesterday #sunset #beach #norfolk
Happy New Year!

See all the previous Where I was posts here:

Saturday, 28 December 2013

No man's land

No more tree! Hurrah!
No more tree - my sewing and knitting corner restored to normal

I am always happy to see the Christmas tree come down.  It is never up for very long - this year was an all-time record from the 19th to the 27th.  The lights and excitement that come with the tree are very welcome, but the displacement of regular furniture and the cluttering up of empty surfaces with tinsel and ornaments makes me feel hemmed in and chaotic.  The moment when we pack everything away always reminds me of this book I used to read to the children when they were very little.

The removal of the tree heralds one of my favourite parts of the year: the no-man's land between Christmas and the resumption of school/university/work in early January.  Long lazy days where we might catch up with family or friends, or we might idle around the house, just the four of us, playing with new presents, watching TV or reading.  The house is full of good food so I do very little cooking after Christmas lunch - everybody helps themselves to leftovers, creating eccentric, tailor-made meals involving smoked salmon, brioche, fancy chutneys and cheeses and bits of stuffing (not necessarily all at once).  When I do feel like cooking, the amount of stock, made on Christmas day from the joint, means that it is almost always soup.  I love soup.

Today I went running (with new Christmas-present headphones), had a nap in the sunshine, watched some Friends with Olivia (who received the entire 10 season box-set for Christmas - very exciting!), ate some of the mulligatawny soup I made yesterday for lunch, did a few more rows of stitching on my kantha quilt, and read a little bit from two books I received as Christmas presents: Eat, the latest Nigel Slater book, and A Handbook for Nurses (published 1920).  This afternoon Graham and I are both going out and meeting up later at the pub.

A Handbook for Nurses - such a wonderful present

Really, what could be nicer than all this?  These days of Christmas no man's land are very special days indeed; that tipping point between the end of one busy year and the start of the next.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas preparations

I finished work.  I finished my essay.  I made mince pies.  Olivia made even more.  Graham put up lights.  Cam counted the number of presents under the tree and ate mince pies. 

We are now turning our attention to the very large amount of cheese that I seem to have ordered.  Olivia says she doesn't mind eating the stilton all by herself, if that would help?  She has discovered that she likes stilton as much as Cam likes mince pies.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

The unlovely East End

I love London, and especially the East End of London, and am usually fiercely loyal...but the area where I am working at the moment is really rather grim and hard to love.  A dual carriageway thunders through the middle of it, the pavements are greasy and dirty, the Georgian and Victorian terraces were almost all destroyed by a combination of the Luftwaffe and the town planners of the 1960s, and replaced with tower blocks. The shops are tired and half-stocked and people hurry along to get somewhere else rather than linger here.  

My fifteen minute walk from the tube station to the hospital does not fill me with wonder and excitement...

...except for just one short moment when I walk over Regent's canal, and on a clear day can turn my head to the left and glimpse the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf rising out of the early morning mist.

A misty, London morning #nofilter #sunrise #london

And this is why I will always love East London.  Even in the middle of the grime and the deprivation, there's still something unexpected to see which makes me smile and feel alive at the start of a long day's work.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A new view

I've worked or studied in the City of London for over seventeen years, and it's one of my very favourite parts of London.  At once medieval and futuristic; both ruthlessly commercial and sweetly charming, there is a buzz about the City that I am still drawn to.  I feel at home there.  And happily for me, the City is also home to the oldest hospital in the world - St Bartholomew's, which is an incredible 890 years old - so I may yet get to work in the City again.

I used to spend my lunch hours happily prowling around the little lanes and quirky corners of the City; I didn't think there was much more left for me to discover.  But of course that couldn't be true.  On Wednesday, my friend Sarah and I walked back to St Paul's station together after a mid-placement review session at the University, and because we were still talking and didn't want to go home yet we did some window shopping, still chatting away and enjoying each other's company.  We found ourselves in 1 New Change, the luxury shopping centre that is all glass and posh carrier bags, and suddenly felt every inch the impoverished middle-aged nursing students that we were.  "Let's go up to the roof terrace," said Sarah, "it's free."

The lift doors opened and I stepped out to the most breathtaking view over the City skyline, with the sun setting behind St Paul's dome right in front of me.






We had a magnificent view of the new Shard too, as well as other favourites of mine such as the Eye, Battersea Power Station and the Royal Courts of Justice.  Sarah and I pointed out to each other buildings we'd worked in, or buildings we'd visited, and every few minutes I just had to turn around and take another photo of the sky and St Paul's.  I could even lean over the parapet and look over onto the roof of St Bart's.  

It's not often that you get the chance to see somewhere you're so familiar with from a completely different perspective.  The wide skies, the familiar buildings, the striped wispy clouds, the chill winter air...all made me very happy indeed.

My friend Matthew camped on this same roof terrace not so long ago - you can read an abridged account of his night  here.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Running notes

My shift patterns and my tiredness levels the last few weeks have meant that I haven't been running much.  My usual three runs a week has faded to something like one run a fortnight.  But I don't think there's any point beating myself up about it - sometimes life gets in the way and a long sleep is better for your body than a long(ish) run.

On Tuesday though, I did make it out of the door for a run, and delighted myself with how much I enjoyed it.  I set off on a route that I know very well, so I didn't have to concentrate on where I was going; I put my music on nice and loud and just ran.

Oh hello, Running Mojo! You've been hiding at the bottom of my work bag! Good to see you again, old friend

I loved how my legs and feet still knew what to do.  I loved how I ran just over 5k without it being a big deal.  I loved being fast, and I loved being pink-cheeked and pink-legged in the cold, dry winter air.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The night shift - 10 things

Trying to go to bed at 9am #nightshift
Trying to get to sleep at 10am, the day before my first night shift

Waiting for the train to work on an empty platform #nightshift
Commuting to work from an empty tube platform - unheard of

Off to work on an almost empty train #nightshift
A nearly empty train - another novelty

Loving these empty trains. #nightshift
Reflections in the window of an empty tube carriage

An empty staff room, 4am. #nightshift #breaktime
Break time - 4am in an empty, silent staffroom

Leaving the hospital. Looking forward to crawling into bed. Bizarrely starving hungry. #nightshift
Heading home to bed - still in semi nurse mode with my hair up and my glasses on

I have to do a minimum of six night shifts as a student nurse before I qualify.  This week I did my first two.  There was much to learn - I didn't expect them to be quite so different from a day shift, but they were.  At the hospital I am at right now, the night shifts are the same length as the day shifts - twelve and a half hours, from 8pm to 8:30am.
  • How any patient ever gets any sleep in a hospital is a miracle to me.  If it's not the sound of the other patients snoring or shouting, then it's the hum and hiss of the pressure-relieving mattresses, the beeps of the drip pumps or feed pumps, the call bells, the clatter of the nurses' medications trolley, the phones ringing, the lights turning on and off.  We try our very hardest to make night time feel like sleep time, but it's not easy in a hospital environment.  No wonder so many patients look tired and have naps during the day.
  • I loved my commute to and from work for the night shifts.  A guaranteed seat on an empty train.
  • On a day shift we have two or three small breaks of 15 or 30 minutes each.  On a night shift we have one long break of an hour and a half.  Some nurses have a quick nap during their break, others stay awake.  I tried both and much prefer staying awake - my body clock was less confused that way.  I did some knitting and listened to the radio on my break the second night, and arrived back on the ward feeling really quite refreshed.
  • It's not the night shift itself that's so exhausting - it's the enforced jet lag you have to put yourself through.
  • I liked having the time to talk to an anxious patient, chat with the matron who did rounds of the wards, or make a cup of tea for a family member sitting up with a dying patient.  There's generally more time for everything on a night shift.
  • The crash trolley and the controlled drugs register must be checked every single night.
  • I still haven't worked out how you eat normally during a run of night shifts.  I slept through mealtimes during the day, and didn't fancy eating a proper meal in the middle of the night; all I could manage was a couple of clementines and some cheese and crackers.  I was permanently hungry but it never felt like the right time to eat.
  • One patient vomited all over my shoes thirty minutes before the end of the shift.  I just stared at my feet in surprise and then the patient and I both burst out laughing.
  • I realised how many different people are on the wards during the day: visitors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, porters taking patients to x-ray or theatre, pharmacists, social workers, speech and language therapists, nurse specialists, couriers and ward clerks.  During the night shift it is just the patients, the nurses, the healthcare assistants and the occasional doctor popping in to check on a particularly unwell or unstable patient.
  • My children were amazing at keeping quiet when they got in from school.  I slept right through and never even heard them come home.   

Friday, 22 November 2013

Knitting oddments

I am crazy about knitting at the moment - I think because it's an easy bit of creativity to fit in whenever I can: sitting at ballet waiting for Olivia, for half an hour in the late evening before I collapse into bed, for twenty minutes during my break at work.  I love knitting for its pick-up-put-down qualities.  Little by little it grows no matter how busy I am.

Slouchy sock-yarn beanie hat finished! #knitting #hat #sockyarn

The beginning of a multicoloured cowl, using sock yarn leftovers #sock yarn #knitting #cowl

At the beginning of this week I finished a slouchy beanie hat made from sock yarn, and almost immediately felt bereft and cast on something new.  Holding the tiny little ball of yarn I had left over from the hat, I was reminded of this shawl which I knit eighteen months ago and wear constantly.  I obviously use more sock yarn than I realised because since I finished the shawl, I have once again built up enough yarn oddments to make something with them.  This time I've decided to make a simple cowl.  I just cast on 160 stitches on 3.25mm dpns, did a few rows of alternating knit and purl to stop the bottom edge from curling, and then switched to stocking stitch.  I'll keep going until I run out of little balls of yarn.  Easy, mindless knitting - with the added excitement of not being quite sure how it will look when it's finished.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

10 things about a new placement

I am back on the wards.  I've started a six-week placement in a rehab unit, which marks the end of Part II of my course - after this I will go from two to three stripes on my epaulettes, and have less than a year to go before I qualify.  It is both scary and exciting to write that.

I have only done two shifts, but already I am:
  • missing being able to wear nail varnish (this post on A Cup of Jo just makes me swoon with desire);
  • remembering how long a twelve or thirteen hour shift is;
  • remembering how a long shift just flies by in a flash when you are busy, busy;
  • enjoying working with gentle, kind nurses who have decades of experience and still take the time to teach me new skills and enthuse about their career;
  • appreciating the colour and vividness of a day off;
  • enjoying a nap on the sofa under a quilt, once the children have gone to school on my days off;
  • getting back into the swing of constantly washing and packing uniform;
  • wondering when I might do any Christmas shopping or planning if I spend all my days off asleep on the sofa?
  • wondering when I might also write the essay which is due in on the 23rd December? 
  • remembering how I end up eating and drinking at such odd times of the day when I am at work (lunch break at 4:30 pm and supper break at 5:45pm on Monday);





I am also missing my nursing friends who are on placements at other hospitals, and hoping they are getting on well.  This course...this profession...it asks so much of us, but it gives more back.  Each time I go on placement I realise I have forgotten how tiring it is.  But I also forget how much I love this job; and it's good to be reminded again. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Warm hands

Earlier this week, I ran for the first time in my winter running top.  I love the thumb hole so much and came back home wondering why manufacturers and knitters don't make thumb holes in every single garment.  It makes the top so much more cosy to wear.

Warm hands

And then yesterday I remembered my armwarmers, which also have thumb holes.  There's now no need to hack at my clothes, or spend the winter in running gear.  Problem solved.

Warm hands  

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Essays and OSCEs

Which way?
Walking to University early in the morning
It's been that sort of week #pint
Unwinding with the student nurses in the pub, after the first week of simulated practice
Essay editing. More fun with a pink pen.
Essay editing, made more fun with a pink pen
Leyton Town Hall - Victorian splendour at its best. It is now a rather lovely pub. #Leyton #london
Leyton Techical pub - glorious on the outside
Tuesday. The children are away. Post work pint. Keeping our hand in with our pre-child skillz.
Leyton Technical pub - and glorious on the inside too
Coffee break time.
Walking past St Paul's during a coffee break
Lunchtime in Postmans Park - one of my favourite London haunts #secretlondon #londonparks
Lunchtime in Postman's Park
I need to tidy my desk.
Messy desk
A more orderly desk. Revising for an exam on Monday.
Tidy desk
The view from the sofa.  Am inside, revising. Would rather be outside, running. #exam
Revising on the sofa - my view
Revising for the OSCE
A surprise exam Good Luck card from Livvy - darling girl.
A surprise OSCE good luck card from Olivia
Exam DONE #phew
Celebrating the end of the OSCE in style
Sunset over the Olympic Park this afternoon
Sunset over the Olympic Park, on my way home

I have had a very full few weeks of essay writing, exam revising and some excellent trips to the pub.  The exam I've just done was an OSCE (pronounced oss-key), which stands for Objective Structured Clinical Exam.  An OSCE is a practical exam, used in medical and nursing degrees, where we have to perform a clinical skill in front of the examiner whilst giving a running commentary about what we are doing and why.  It's a pretty terrifying ordeal, and endless books are published to help medical and nursing students pass them.

For this OSCE we were given a list of nearly 60 clinical skills which could be examined, and we didn't know until we walked into the exam room which one we'd have to do.  The whole process made me simultaneously realise how much I've learnt since this time last year (give an intramuscular injection? yep - fine) and how much I still have to learn (insert a naso-gastric feeding tube? yikes).  In the end, the skill I had was a fairly basic one, so they were expecting me to know it very well indeed.  I have no idea how I've done, but I'll find out in four weeks' time.

To prepare for our OSCE, and for our next hospital placements which start next week, we've just finished two weeks of simulated practice.  This is where we spend all day in the University's mock wards and clinical rooms, in full uniform, learning new clinical skills, and practising the ones we know already, on mannequins (if they're invasive), or on each other (if they're not).  Simulated practice is always a very intense fortnight, where we are overwhelmed with information and new skills, and have to discuss and act out many different scenarios.  

We were let loose on the advanced mannequins for the first time - these ones had pulses and blood pressure, and could be programmed to suddenly vomit or go into cardiac arrest.  The mannequins are cool, but scare me slightly - they have very glazed eyes.  On the very last afternoon I had to catheterise my mannequin, and made a complete botched job of it.  This is why simulated practice is both reassuring (it's just a mannequin, not a real patient) and necessary (I'm going to have to catheterise real patients very soon without getting it wrong).  It's probably also why the mannequins have scary eyes - the result of many hundreds of student nurses practising their catheterisation and resuscitation skills on them over the years.  They could probably do with a pint of cider after two weeks of simulated practice, too.