Saturday 26 September 2015

I've moved

My new career called for a new approach to blogging. I'm still writing, but I've moved to In Between The Shifts - do come over and say hello!

Saturday 14 February 2015


I hadn't expected to find being a qualified nurse so different from being a student nurse.  But as well as qualifying, I also moved hospital; and so many things are done differently at this hospital to the ones I trained at (often done in a better way, too).  

These past six weeks have been an exercise in humility as I have had to re-learn how to do some of the simplest things that I assumed I'd already mastered as a student:
  • a new type of catheter bag that empties with a tap not a valve;
  • beds that have completely different controls (and that work reliably, unlike the ones at my last hospital);
  • a macerator rather than a bedpan washer (infinitely nicer and more hygienic);
  • completely different cardiac montitors that have integrated ECG machines - no more going hunting for a portable ECG machine, wheeling it back to your patient, plugging it in, connecting it all up and then finding that it has run out of paper - here I just press 'print' on the monitor;
  • a whole different system of ordering food for my patients;
  • completely new prescription charts, fluid charts, nursing notes and observation charts;
  • wound dressings that I've never come across before;
  • cleaning everything with old-fashioned chlorinated water, rather than anti-bac wipes. 
My new colleagues have been so friendly and supportive.  It didn't take me long to feel a part of the team.  However, I still do a double-take when I catch sight of myself in the mirror and I am wearing the royal blue scrubs of a Staff Nurse, not the grubby white tunic of a student.  Sometimes I feel like a capable, qualified nurse, and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I know what to do and sometimes I don't.  I work much more slowly than the other nurses, and that is another lesson in humility, because in order to be safe, I have to ask for help more often than others.

New uniform

I have at least one moment in every shift where something suddenly happens, an alarm goes off, my patient deteriorates, and I mentally shriek to myself "Fuuuuucccckkkk!!!".  But either it is something I can quickly fix myself, or I need to call for help and another nurse is by my side in moments showing me what to do.  I learn more each day than I ever thought possible.

And that's the joy in this new job.  Intensive Care is a stressful place to work, but its also so very interesting and fulfilling.  Patients are at their most vulnerable and at their most sick, and it is deeply satisfying to be able to nurse them one-on-one and give them really good quality care for thirteen hours at a time.  I am using my brain as well as my heart, and I love that.

On my way home #joysofcommuting #London

Tuesday 13 January 2015

All change

It's all change for the New Year around here:
  • I'm working. 
  • The car only gets used once or twice a week, now that we no longer have a school run to do. 
  • I'm earning money. 
  • After a very late night out and a slow bus ride home, I awoke at 9:30am to find that Cam had unloaded the dishwasher, made a big pot of coffee and was frying bacon for breakfast sandwiches for everyone. 
  • I no longer travel to work by tube.
  • We are going to go to Switzerland for our summer holiday this year.
  • I'm wearing bright blue scrubs at work, and a name badge that says 'Staff Nurse'.
  • There is a hipster-run new bistro in our local neighbourhood.
I absolutely love this time of year: the crisp cold, the white skies, the sense of clarity and energy after the velvet-luxury, over-indulgent, laziness of Christmas.  It makes me want to run, to clean, to sing, and to organise.  Starting a new job fits perfectly with this vibe.  In the dark early mornings I warm myself up with one of the (many) hats I knit over Christmas and walk briskly up the hill to work, marvelling at how much I enjoy this new life I've chosen.  On my days off I make plans and lists: where to walk next, what I need to learn next for work, what I'm going to buy with my first month's salary (a new printer, most likely), what my sewing plans are for this year, and which bag I don't need to buy in the Cath Kidston sale.

There's still cake though.  There's always cake.

Lemon and blueberry cake
Lemon and blueberry syrup loaf

Saturday 3 January 2015

Walking in the new year

Two Christmas weeks of whole-family idleness has been blissful.

Tagged by my fellow knitting, sewing, newly-qualified nurse, @lilyboot, to show you what's in my cup and on my needles right now: mocha in a Christmas mug (fresh coffee with a spoonful of hot chocolate stirred in), and a soft grey beanie hat for me.  I ta
mocha and knitting - this is what much of my Christmas looked like

And now I'm starting the year with a pair of new walking boots, a whole pile of lists, plans, maps and new pens.  Its good to feel busy and energetic again after so much sleep and rich food.

Plotting some future adventures with @gillusher #london #eastlondon #walks #adventures #daysout

Happy New Year. May you travel well in 2015 xx

New Year's Day

I have resolved to cram as many walks as I can into 2015.

Thursday 18 December 2014

The slow advent of Christmas

Christmas clementines #vitaminc #orange #nofilter  
Although the children and Graham are still ploughing on at work and at school - revising for science exams, writing up computer science coursework and making presentations to the Board of Directors - there are a few hints of Christmas starting to appear around here.

Olivia is appalled at Graham and my refusal to put up the tree so far.  But in fact, it is going up tomorrow - an early record for us.  The tree makes the house feel so cluttered and cramped it rarely goes up before the 22nd December.  However, there are twinkly lights around all the front windows, up and down the stairs, and around the railings and in the bay bush at the front of the house - they went up a couple of weeks ago, as they look pretty and don't take up any space.

As a diversion from complaining about the lack of tree, Olivia made a giant advent calendar on her bedroom door - filling each envelope with a fat marshmallow or a handful of chocolate coins.

She made her own Advent calendar. Each envelope has a fat marshmallow in it. #handmade #advent #christmas #craft #marshmallows

I've baked mince pies, bought clementines, and done some secret making and wrapping of presents this week.   Tomorrow I am going on a long yomp through Epping Forest to gather some foliage for a wreath.

Pie time! I hope @runnergmcc gets home quickly.... #christmas #mincepies #warmfromtheoven

Making the most of having the house to myself. Listening to TED talks, drinking coffee and wrapping presents. #Christmas #presents #surprises

Little, by little, the festive season begins to draw us in - as a subtle, seasonal shift, rather than as a loud, hectic, explosion of stress.  That's just how it should be in my book.
Stencilled snowflakes in the Olympic Park #winter #qeop #london

Friday 28 November 2014

10 things

  • About a month ago I realised that working as a nurse feels completely normal now, rather than strange and new.  This is A Very Good Thing, as it means I no longer feel overwhelmed, but I still retain my excitement and enthusiasm.
  • Time for a quick cappuccino and a gaze at the magnificent autumn morning sky over East London before I start. #work #nurse #sky #london #sunrise
  • I have just nine shifts left as a student.
  • 7pm - supper time selfie in the reflective windows of the staff restaurant #work #nurse #window
  • I am making time to run, although I am starting to realise that I can't always go running exactly when I want.  Such is life though - anyone working or looking after children, or both, has the same problem.
  • Yesterday, when the coach at my running club said that our session for the evening was "Chats", I assumed that this meant running and chatting.  So I set off, cheerfully chatting to the person next to me.  It turns out that "Chats" is actually a loop of over 8km, which includes the long Chatsworth Road in Hackney.  And it also turns out that the lady I had started chatting to is very experienced, races competitively most weekends, and runs at a much speedier pace than me.  My good manners and sense of pride meant that I couldn't bear to either stop chatting or drop away from her, so I ended up running over 8k at my 5k pace, whilst discussing analytics methodology in the publishing industry.  An amazing achievement.
  • I bought some new lunchboxes from Lakeland.  This yogurt-and-granola pot is my favourite, and means I can quickly re-fuel with much needed carbs during my 15 breakfast break at work.  Plus, how cute is the tiny honey pot?
  • Good morning! I am loving ITU...almost as much as I'm loving my new granola and yogurt pot (from the marvellous Lakeland of course). Morning break time. #work #nurse #secondbreakfast #granola #yogurt #pot
  • Cam is in Year 10, and has test after test at school at the moment.  Some of them are progress tests and some of them are official GCSE assessments.  He's characteristically laid-back about it all, but it strikes me as being pretty relentless.  I made him a chocolate cake yesterday, and when he came home from school and ate a big slice with a big grin on his face, I was so pleased.
  • I decided my best boy needed a cake - chemistry and history exams today, and a weekend of history revision coming up for another exam on Monday. Being 15 can be pretty relentless. #cake #autumn #sprinkles #chocolate #family
  • I read Gone Girl last week and didn't like it one bit.
  • I've had some good walks lately - just locally around Epping Forest, Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes and the Olympic Park on my days off.  The damp, misty, golden autumn colours and smells just take my breath away.
  • Along the edge of the East Marsh in Hackney this morning. #walk #autumn #London #dayoffOn Hackney Marshes, gazing over towards the Olympic Park #London #walk #sky #dayoff
  • One of the first things I am going to buy when my salary comes through in January (the first money I've earned since 2009 - oh my), is a new pair of walking boots.  Mine are ten years old and the sole is coming away from the boot on the right foot; they are not really very waterproof anymore.
  • Exploring #Leyton #walk #London #dayoff
  • There is obviously a very long list of Things I want To Buy when I am earning again.  

Tuesday 11 November 2014

London's sculpture trails

Back in 2010, a parade of elephants came to London to raise awareness of the need for elephant conservation.  The children and Graham and I had such a fun summer going elephant spotting around town - ticking the elephants we found off the checklist, taking photos and deciding which ones were our favourites.

Cam, elephant, Livvy
A 10-year old Cam and a 7-year old Livvy with an elephant in Green Park

Livvy checks the map
Livvy crossing elephants off the map in 2010

I thought at the time, what a wonderful idea it was.  The project really captured the public's imagination; everyone in London seemed to be talking about it.  It got us all out as a family, exploring London and sharing with each other the places we knew best (Graham knows the Royal Parks extremely well from cycling through them on his way to work for years, but I rarely go there) and the elephants were just very lovely works of art in their own right - sometimes beautiful and sometimes amusing.

So I was delighted to find that there are two really good new sculpture trails in London this autumn.  

There is a trail of fifty Paddington Bears scattered around London to mark the release of the Paddington film and to raise money for the NSPCC.  The bears have all been designed by different people, and are mostly clustered in a few parts of London so that you could easily see a whole bunch in an hour or two (although I am perversely tempted to trek all the way out to Heathrow to see the Chief Scout Bear designed by Bear Grylls).  The Paddingtons will be in London until the end of the year, so you still have a couple of months to see them all.

The second trail is to mark the 2014 Year of the Bus (I know - who knew?).  This one I stumbled across completely by accident as I was walking in the Olympic Park last week.  I found a beautiful, floral bus sculpture, read the label on it, and knew immediately that I had to come back soon with my smallest nephew - bus-and-train-mad, four-year-old Leo - to see how many of the rest of them we could find.  

Year of the Bus sculptures

At the weekend, my brother-in-law and Leo joined Livvy and me for a stroll around the park to find the buses.  Well, Leo scooted at high speed while the rest of us strolled.  Instead of the paper map that Livvy checked off the elephants with in 2010, this time we had an app with a QR reader so that we could 'zap' the buses as we found them and mark them off the map on my phone.  We had so much fun, and Leo adored looking out for the different buses.  The trail around the Olympic Park is one of three bus trails - the others are in Westminster and around St Paul's and the Tate Modern. 

Year of the Bus sculptures
Livvy and Leo find a bus in front of the stadium
Year of the Bus sculptures
Self portrait in the mirrored bus
Year of the Bus sculptures
David and Leo with the number bus
Year of the Bus sculptures
Found another one!
Year of the Bus sculptures
This paralympic themed bus was mine and David's favourite

Year of the Bus sculptures
The floral bus from the other side - in front of the Broadcast Centre

I've got a whole, happy autumn of bus and bear hunting around London ahead of me trying to spot as many of them as I can - sometimes on my own or with a friend on a weekday day off, and sometimes with the family at the weekend.  That makes me very content.  

Monday 3 November 2014

Lanyard love

Every nurse loves a lanyard.  We use them to display our security IDs and keep our computer access cards safe.  They ensure we have rolls of tape handy and hold little aide-memoire cards that we've been given.  The paediatric nurses like to cover theirs with colourful stickers.


My current one in use is the big chunky black one on the right.  I got it for taking part in a virus testing week which my trust was promoting early in October.  When the research nurses came to visit us to tell us about the campaign, the first question anybody asked was "Do you have any lanyards?".  Happily, they'd ordered plenty so most of us in A&E are wearing them at the moment.  And these are very good quality lanyards with a nice big clip and a long, wide strap.  They sit really neatly around your neck.

The A&E Porters all have black HEMS lanyards with little red helicopters on them (HEMS is the emergency helicopter service, which is based at our hospital and which we're all very proud of).  People really covet the HEMS lanyards, and if they were ever being given away there might be ugly scenes as I can imagine people might be tempted to snatch.  I don't know how the Porters got theirs!

I also have a blue NHS one (which my friend Sue bought off Amazon - I somehow thought you might have to prove you worked for the NHS to get one, but no).  Its a little too flimsy for A&E use, so it's retired at the moment but may well get used again in the future.

I have a very pretty Cath Kidston one too.  Cath Kidston is on to a good thing with her branded lanyards as pretty much every single nurse I know owns at least one.  I don't use this red one for work any more because it doesn't have a break-away clip at the back of the neck.  Many  drunk or agitated patients find a lanyard very tempting and will pull on them, so you really want a break-away clip.  Happily Cath is now taking this into account and her new range of lanyards has safety clips at the back.  I love this midnight blue one with stars, and this spotty pink one.  I would love it if Kaffe Fassett or Orla Kiely started making lanyards.

Amazon has a few decent ones too.  I like this blue one that simply says NURSE - it could be good when I am in my new job where everyone wears scrubs and it's difficult to remember who's a doctor, who's a healthcare assistant and who's a nurse.  There's also this excellent pink one with an integral nurse's watch in it.


On my lanyard I carry my ID card, which I need to get in and out of the staffroom, the wards, and all the different parts of A&E (Resus, the Clinical Decision Unit, Paediatrics, Majors), a roll of transpore tape, a blue tape measure (mainly used for measuring wounds or measuring people for anti-embolism stockings), and a card on pressure ulcer prevention.  Its always the last thing I put on when I get changed, and once it's round my neck I know I'm ready to start work.  It's my daily medal, and it tells people who I am and what my job is.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Seen in A&E

We do three or four twelve hour shifts a week, and we see EVERYTHING.
  • A nurse covered in white splashes of plaster of paris.
  • A patient being kept nil-by-mouth before going to theatre for emergency surgery, trying to sneak a swig of beer from a can in his bag.
  • A bike helmet, crushed like an eggshell.
  • A floor awash with urine.
  • Doctors and paramedics in bright orange helicopter jumpsuits.
  • Relatives crying and hugging each other.
  • A passport drenched in blood.
  • Porters pushing trolleys around with incredible skill.  How do they never hit anything?
  • Nurses and doctors crowded around the radiographer, who is looking at a patient's brain scan.
  • Nervous looking medical students.
  • People practising walking down the corridors with crutches.
  • A linen skip full of discarded red ambulance blankets.
  • A nurse talking to a patient about cupcake recipes as she puts a needle in his vein to take blood.
  • A man handcuffed to a trolley, escorted everywhere by two tall policemen with crackling radios. 
  • Many, many people whose problems will be solved by going home, taking a paracetamol, and seeing their GP next week.
The new (blue) hospital behind the  old (now a listed building) #london #londonlove #rlh #whitechapel #nofilter
The new, blue, hospital behind the old one

Friday 17 October 2014

Run Report - motivation

Motivational messages for runners in the Olympic Park

A friend sent me an email last week, asking if I would write about how I became a runner.  I thought about her request a great deal - mainly while I was out running - and decided that the starting to run story was quite ordinary, but the more interesting issue has become how and why I continued to run.  I feel very strongly that to call yourself 'A Runner' you don't have to be fast, or even improving, you just have to go running regularly.

I started running because Olivia announced that she wanted to do a Race for Life and raise some money for Cancer Research.  We did the very popular NHS Couch to 5K programme and at the end of the 9 weeks, we did our Race for Life in Cambridge in July 2013.

At this point Olivia stopped running regularly, but I carried on.  The reason that I am still running fifteen months later is quite simply that I enjoy it.  However, enjoying running is in itself a complex business - I enjoy running for so many, varied reasons.  
  • I have made some wonderful friends through running - at my local parkrun, and now at my running club
  • I relish being fit enough to run up the escalators on the tube.
  • I love how all I need to do to stay fit is go out for a run for about 30 minutes three times a week.  It doesn't require a great deal of time commitment.
  • I like having bare legs and wearing shorts.
  • I love my post-run oat and banana milkshake.
  • I love being outside.
  • I adore the euphoria that comes from running faster or further than I thought was possible.  It doesn't happen very often, but it's all the sweeter for that.
  • I appreciate the time to myself.
  • I like how I can just run straight from my front door if I want to.  Sometimes I drive out to the more remote parts of Epping Forest, or cycle over to the Olympic Park to run, but if I can't be bothered I can still run from my front door and enjoy being outside in the local parks.
  • I relish the rituals that come with running: setting the playlist on my iPod if I am running by myself, making sure my shoes are laced tightly, tying up my hair, walking to warm up, stretching afterwards (sometimes I forget to do this, I am so eager for a sit down and then a nice long bath).
  • I love the energy it gives me.
  • I love how easy it is.  It is not easy to run fast, or run efficiently, but just changing into running kit, pulling on my shoes, and going for a run is easy.  
The fact that I continue to go running even when I'm tired or not in the mood is why I feel happy calling myself a runner.  Running has become a part of what I do now - like cooking, sewing or reading - and it became a part of what I do because I just went outside and ran. I enjoyed it, and so I kept on running.

Just ran my fastest 5k ever (27:36). Channeling my inner Jo Pavey. Yeehah! #running #pb #qeop
The euphoria (and astonishment) after finishing a 5k run with a new pb this week
My race number at a club event in September
Back home after a run - where's my milkshake?