Gently as I can, while he simultaneously belches into my face and emits noxious gas into the air around us, I guide a 76-year-old man’s penis into a urine bottle. And after he has missed it for the third time, I think to myself: ‘I love my job. I love my job, I LOVE MY FUCKING AWFUL JOB.’
In all honesty, it isn’t even a job. The definition of a job is doing something for monetary reward. But since I am only ‘training’ to be a nurse, I don’t get paid. I don’t get paid to empty catheter bags while my friends get wasted at Glastonbury, nor to macerate faeces while others have swanky three-hour ‘working’ lunches in the City. At almost 28 years old, I can honestly say that my choice to become the Florence Nightingale of the 21st Century was probably one of the dumbest decisions anyone has ever made.
I’m pretty rare among my colleagues though; most of them love nursing. They love the adrenaline rush of pounding on some poor bugger’s chest as he slides swiftly into cardiac arrest, they love analysing foul-smelling urine for infection markers, and the love filling in an incident form (particularly when someone else is to blame for the cock-up). SO MUCH FUN.
Most of my colleagues fill their Facebook feeds with memes that essentially illustrate how great they all are, or how the government, the media, and society at large doesn’t understand what huge sacrifices they have to make every day just to keep YOU alive. And they’re right – most people don’t understand that nurses routinely work five to seven hours without a bathroom break or even a drink of water.
But what gets me about nurses, particularly my generation, is the sheer self-righteousness. The unbelievably arrogant belief that they alone are on a crusade to save the lives of the world and his wife. Doctors are cavalier wank stains with illegible handwriting; healthcare assistants are lazy, useless fuckwits who’d rather play Candy Crush Saga than hold an old lady’s hand while she has her necrotic leg ulcers cleaned.
Having ranted about my colleagues, the real saving grace of the ‘job’ is the patients. Nursing is a great job for anyone intrigued by the nature of the human soul, because when people are tired, in pain, or generally under the weather, they reveal themselves to you in a way that most well people never would. There was the cheeky chappie on the cardiac ward who would pinch my arse whenever I took his blood pressure and ask me if I fancied joining him in the linen closet “for a quickie”. Given that the poor sod wasn’t far off 80, this jolly insouciance was a welcome breath of fresh air. On the urology ward, the Polish fella with severe urinary retention who screamed, every 20 minutes on the dot, “VEN VILL I BE HABLE TO HAFF A FUCKING PISS?!” brightened the incredible monotony of my day no end.
It’s no coincidence that my favourite patients are men, because men are simply better at dealing with pain than women – who, in the vast majority of cases, develop what I have come to name HAP, or Hospital Acquired Paraplegia. Meaning that, though they quite happily wandered off to the loo unaided in the middle of the night, by morning they couldn’t possibly wash themselves without the assistance of two nurses and a raft of incontinence supplies.
There hasn’t been a single day in all of my training when I haven’t pined for the clock to move a little faster, when I haven’t gasped down a fag as I jubilantly sauntered out the front of the hospital after a long day, or busted out I Will Survive in the shower at 5.15am as I prepared for my third 12-hour shift in as many days. So I tell you youngsters: are you thinking about saving the world, one excoriated moisture lesion at a time? Turn back now, choose a career that won’t fuck up your knees, back and moral fibre in one fell swoop. Choose something well-paid and enjoyable. Something, anything, remotely creative.
Do not give your life’s work to people who will whine for pain meds 20 minutes after a dose of morphine that could level a donkey. Don’t spend your life getting up at an ungodly hour to wipe arses and feed the demented. If there is any doubt in your mind that you can project a sunny and understanding disposition for 12 straight hours, for the love of GOD, don’t become a nurse.