Category Archives: nursing

Spot the deliberate mistake

Now, I know I have only just submitted my thesis, but as my thoughts are already turning to the next chapter in life, how could I possibly manage without a course of some description? So a couple of months ago I tried to apply to a local university (not the one I’m currently at, but in the same city) to do the graduate certificate in sexual health nursing, with a view to working in sexual health and family planning (at least part-time – I reckon if I can keep a few OU courses going and then do a few shifts at a clinic each week, that will suit me just fine, and there might be some research openings there too). The initial application process was not the easiest – the administrator sent me a form, entitled “Supplementary Form 4”, which just asked me which modules I wanted to do and then told me to write the appropriate module code “on page 1 of the application form”. Which rather implied that there was another form. As did the fact that Supplementary Form 4 had no space for my address, qualifications, employment or supporting statement. However when I pointed this out to the administrator (along with the fact that Supplementary Form 4 itself talked about another form) she emailed back to say “I don’t understand what you’re asking, I have sent you the form, here it is again in case you didn’t get it” along with another attachment of Supplementary Form 4. I felt really bad that I had to be blunt, but I had to email her back to point out that in every other application form I’ve ever completed I’ve had to include my address, qualifications, employment and supporting statement. She then did immediately send me the application form as required, and was very apologetic, but I must say it didn’t fill me with the most overwhelming sense of confidence.

On Monday I got a phone call from someone at the university. Unfortunately I was in the most heightened state of last-minute-thesis-itis (I was still hoping to submit later that day) so I had to interrupt the guy and tell him it was the worst possible time to speak to me. He sounded a bit affronted, and I suddenly had a horrible thought that maybe this was my preliminary interview! Whoops! I did explain that I was submitting my thesis that day and he did obviously smile and say he understood totally and he would email me, and he duly did to say that I had been accepted onto the course. Hooray.

I then got a letter from the university in question this morning. See if you can spot the deliberate mistake in the first sentence:

‘Dear ………..
The university is pleased to make you an unconditional offer of a place for session 2010/11 for the programme leading to the: GRADUATE DIPLOMA BUSINESS WITH ENGINEERING (PT) entering at year 1.’

Ahem. I fear a phone call may be in order on Monday.


I wrote a really dull post yesterday that was public for about a minute then I made it private, as it was so dull even I was bored with it, but it did say stuff I wanted to remember later. It was basically about work=bonkers, thesis=neglected, I=tired and was pretty whingey. Tomorrow work is going to be particularly bonkers, which I’m not particularly looking forward to, but at least this time tomorrow it will all be over (till the next time)!

I had an unexpected sort-of compliment at work today though. We are, as an organisation, going through a particular process to gain a particular status (don’t want to be too specific here) which requires all clinical staff to have lots of training and testing and auditing and to do things in a particularly prescriptive way and that way only (an approach which doesn’t necessarily sit naturally with the type of clinical practice I do). Lots of us have moaned about it, including me, as although I don’t have a problem with the subject at hand (far from it) the way it is being rolled out, on top of all the other million things we also have to be trained/tested/audited in means that I feel we have no time to actually do our job properly. My caseload is actually quite a bit smaller than the one I had in London, but I am *so* much busier, I’m starting to wonder how I managed it in London as if I had that many children on my books here I would be having a nervous breakdown, ooh, about now (maybe I wasn’t very good in London, and neglected lots of things. I hope not!).

Anyway, I’m digressing. Compliment. About a month ago I had the first of the testing sessions (they keep telling us it isn’t a test, and try to make it sound more informal and less prescriptive, but it really is a test), and passed most of it but not all. We arranged another meeting (“resit”) a few weeks ago (which I had to cancel as I had been so busy doing other things I hadn’t given it a second thought), and then rearranged it for today. Of course I have been so busy doing other things I hadn’t given it a second thought before today either, but couldn’t realistically cancel it again so I mugged up for 15 minutes before the meeting, and then it went OK (that’s how I got through O’levels too, my friends revised for weeks and weeks beforehand, whereas the most I did was a week’s revision before the exam, and the ones I got A grades for were the ones I just revised the night before). And at the end – after all my moaning and all my complaints (I had a bit of an issue with one of the trainers at one of the initial study days so I was a bit ranty the first time I met with my tester assessor) – she asked me if I had any plans of staying in the job for any amount of time, and would I consider becoming a mentor for other people going through it all? And even though I have no intention of a. being a mentor or b. being around any longer than absolutely necessary, I did feel quite chuffed that, for that moment at least, I was doing something alright in my job. I know I’ll never be health visitor of the year, but I do want to do my best while I’m in the job, and at the minute it’s all so busy that it feels like there’s no time to be anything other than mediocre.

This has ended up being whingey as well, but never mind! I have nearly built up a day’s TOIL (time off in lieu) through working extra just in the last couple of weeks, but even though the thought of a day off is technically great, the reality is that it’s also a very stressful thought, as there’s so much to do that taking a day off will mean that the other days get overfilled with the work I would have done on that day, and the cycle continues. Argh.

Need to plan my escape …. (except that involves finishing the th*sis, but we won’t talk about that particular source of stress this time! I’ll save it for another whingefest 🙂 ).


As I mentioned before, in May I will be reducing my hours at work by a day a week, and that means that I will be changing the GP practice with which I will be working (though I will be in the same team so won’t be so much as moving desks never mind office or anything). One of my colleagues has been meeting with the main GP partner during the vacancy, and last week when they met he asked her to ask me to pop into the practice sometime so they could welcome me. I went in today, and was not only welcomed as a colleague, but also presented with this:


They told me they wanted me to feel part of the team and wanted me to feel welcome and a full part of the practice, and seemed so genuinely happy to have a health visitor again, I was really touched. I hope I can live up to their expectations! (not to mention their previous HV, with whom I worked for a couple of months when I first started and who was a. lovely and b. a really good HV).

I know I moan about health visiting and it’s not really what I want to do long-term. But being appreciated and welcomed before I even start will make such a difference.

Hoping hoping

Tomorrow I am meeting with my manager to discuss my application to reduce my working hours (so that I can have a day a week to write my thesis, before I entirely forget what it’s all about). So any prayers, candles, good thoughts and vibes, etc much appreciated, thanks all.

[Tues 9th pm. Thanks everyone. Here’s an update: meeting was cancelled, am hoping to have it tomorrow instead. Sigh]

On study days

Today I was on a full-day study day for work. Other than saying that it was better than I was expecting I’m not going to talk about the contents of the day, for I have more weighty (literally) matters to discuss.

I was amused that, just like when I was a health visitor in London, colleagues’ estimation of study days always seem to revolve round food. When I mentioned to one of my colleagues yesterday that I was going on this study day today, she asked where it was, and when I told her her first reply was “oh I’ve been on a study day there, they’ve got a great cafe!” (which I am delighted to report is true. They also served biscuits and pastries mid-morning and mid-afternoon which was a definite bonus). I remember in the past when we were asked to attend some boring meeting or other, the first question was almost never “how will this improve my practice/the service/etc” but instead almost always “will there be biscuits?”

It’s like I’ve been saying to my new colleagues. Health visiting is health visiting, wherever in the country you happen to do it 🙂

[In academia it was generally the 2nd topic of discussion. They did usually manage to say “interesting lecture” or somesuch before commenting on the standard of catering].

My poor neglected thesis

I haven’t written much about the student experience (after all, the main point of this blog) recently. There is a good reason for this.

(excuse me while I cower with guilt at the thought of my poor neglected thesis).

I had a long conversation (well, one-sided ramble if I’m honest) with HD today about how I feel my job is exhausting me to the point that the last thing in the world I want to do is my thesis (even though if I’m honest, really the last thing I want to do is actually my day job). I have set myself a few mini-targets to get me through being at work – end of this week we have a holiday (YAY), end of Feb I will have done enough hours to be able to reregister as a health visitor when my registration next comes up for renewal (not for over 2 years, but it’s good as a first short-term goal), mid-June the OU course finishes so I’ll have one less thing to take up my time away from the thesis, end of June I will have been in the job the same amount of time as my first health visiting job after I qualified so if I can stay longer it will be better for my CV, end of July I have a conference to attend so moving job before that would be too stressful, same sort of time I’m aiming to submit my thesis (eeeeeeeek) so likewise it’s silly to be jobhunting/changing before then. Of course if HD gets a permanent job somewhere else in the meantime then all this will be academic as I will have an excuse to leave earlier, but in the meantime giving myself these short-term goals will hopefully make life a bit more bearable.

It doesn’t change the fact though that I am spending far too little time on my thesis. I know I was a world champion procrastinator the 4 years I was at uni actually being paid to do the thing, but now I’m too tired to procrastinate.

Which is a shame as this evening I discovered an opportunity to procrastinate in a way that would actually look good on the academic side of my CV, but I don’t think I’m ever going to have the time. I might make a discreet enquiry (it involves blogging) but I probably need to be realistic and manage the plates I’m already juggling rather than taking on anything else.

Don’t vote for Cameron redux

The news over the last couple of days that Tory leader David Cameron wants to make teaching an elite profession available only to the (allegedly) brightest and the best has already attracted comment on the wibsite thanks to an (as usual) astute post from Tractor Girl. The idea of a panel of “good universities” in the “low dozens” (see this press release from university think-tank million+) suggests to me a return to elitism and snobbery based on where you study rather than the million and one other things that should define a good teacher and the value of the time spent at university, explained much better in Tractor Girl’s post than I could here (do read it if you haven’t already clicked on the link).

I have to say that I also felt rather peeved, not to mention confused and angry, because last week the article about nurse education which wound me up so much (see last post) seems to be saying the opposite thing – ie that being elite and highly academic is a bad thing. Now, a disclaimer here: I realise that I am on the more academic side of things, and I responded well to much of the academic side of nurse training, whereas many absolutely brilliant nurses aren’t so into the academic side of things but are still fantastic at what they do and shouldn’t be discriminated against by a lack of academic aptitude (having said that I do think that a GCSE/O’level C grade in maths is essential for pretty obvious reasons – I don’t want any doses of drugs being calculated by people who can’t multiply or divide – but I digress).

My concerns are severalfold. Cameron’s statement that there was “too much over-academicised training and not enough hands on training, not relevant to what they were doing on the ward” is far too simplistic. The issue of academic versus hands-on has been going on for ages, certainly while I was training in the mid-1990s it was a huge issue with “old hands” moaning that newly-qualified nurses didn’t have the practical skills to do the job whilst many nurses really appreciated the chance to expand their knowledge and – and this is the important bit – apply it to how they practised nursing. What really bothers me about this statement though is in many ways much more basic. Hello Mr Cameron – I haven’t worked on a ward for years. What is relevant to ward nurses is much less relevant to community and general practice nurses, who work in different ways and often are looking at health, illness and wellbeing in a totally different light (complementary I might add to the hospital system, not in opposition to it).

My biggest concern is that, when I look back at my nurse training, the biggest discovery for me and the thing that really sparked my interest in working in communities, looking at health inequalities and trying to work towards improving health at a community as well as individual level was sociology – in particular looking at the Black Report of 1980 which showed how social class affected health outcomes (the report was commissioned by the Labour government of the 1970s but published in August 1980, just after That Bloody Woman took power. It was published on a Bank Holiday with only a few hundred copies, and was basically hushed up, as the findings were so compelling that inequalities in health were inextricably linked to social class inequalities). And this is, I think, precisely the sort of “academic training” that Cameron has in mind when he talks about over-academic training. He’s not going to slash lecturing posts in anatomy and physiology, it’s the more political stuff he wants to get rid of. It’s all very well having nurses with amazing practical hands-on skills – indeed it is vital, of course it is. But if we have a generation of nurses who are only trained to do practical things with individual patients, what is lost is the focus on inequality and injustice. I just think it would be awfully convenient for the Tories to have a nursing profession that is so focussed on being professionally and practically brilliant at what they do that they have so much less time or knowledge or understanding to challenge the real issues of inequality and exclusion on a wider level.

Reason not to vote for David Cameron #9857

Instead of marking essays (like I should be doing) I have spent the last 3/4 hour writing a (though I say so myself) eloquent and passionately-argued blog post on why David Cameron’s current pronouncements on nurse education (which pretty much boil down to “make it less academic”) are not only a bad but also a dangerous and cynical thing and have me really worried for the future of the profession. And after all that, having got myself *really* worked up about it, I clicked on “publish” only to get an Internal Server Error message and the whole bloody thing is lost.

Cameron you bastard, it’s all your fault.

(if I can face it I’ll rewrite it another day. Have to go and mark essays now). Grrrrrrr.