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Training to be a nurse has changed dramatically since the early days of the NHS. Greater demands and added responsibility make it harder to qualify than ever before. At universities all over the country, a new generation of nurses is being born.
From rock drummers to carpet fitters, Student Nurses: Bedpans and Bandages follows the diverse backgrounds and lives of trainee nurses in Birmingham and Manchester, with all the pressures, emotions and challenges they face both in training and on the wards.
The series offers an insight into what it takes to become a nurse in the 21st century, uncovers the motivation behind the student nurses’ dreams and showing the challenges they face on a daily basis juggling academic study with home life and work on the wards.
Episode one follows three trainee nurses stepping up to the challenge of 21st century nursing as they deal with mounting pressure, a testing youngster and first day nerves.
The programme follows 24-year-old first-year student Alistair, one of the growing number of men taking on the challenge of becoming a nurse.
Alistair reveals how he feels about entering the world of nursing: “Bricking it. I’m pretty scared to be honest. I’m not used to being around so many women all the time.”
It’s a world away from the job Alistair was trained to do by his Dad. But Alistair is preparing to swap his regular pay cheque as a carpet-fitter for a different type of reward.
Alastair says: “You won’t save lives fitting carpets. But if I can save one life being a nurse, then what an achievement that is in life.” He adds: “I’m not here for the money, I’m here for that reward that comes with nursing.”
This episode sees Alistair set foot on the ward for the very first time, after two months in the classroom.
A nervous Alistair says: “I’m worried most about how I’ll react to people in such poor condition or people who seriously need help. I’ve never seen it before, so I think it’ll be quite a shock to the system.”
As Alastair tackles the challenges his first patient brings, he says: “I feel personally as if I’ve got a lot to prove, as the rest of the cohort have got quite a bit of experience in health care.”
The programme also follows mature student, 50-year-old Dany, who is picking up a career she first began training for three decades ago.
She admits: “When I started at 19, I was nothing like I am now. I was shy, I wouldn’t have said boo to a goose.”
Dany’s first shot at nursing was cut short by illness, but her teenage dream never left her. She says: “Thirty years later, for it to come full circle, I just can’t believe I’m back doing what I started.”
Training to become a nurse is a far cry from the admin jobs Dany had in the past. She says: “I’ve had lots of office jobs but this is so different, you’re more responsible for other people. It’s not like if I make a mistake on the computer it’s going to affect somebody’s life.”
Dany continues: “Going through your head you’re going, ‘Am I going to remember all the training?’ If that emergency happens, are you going to be able to react to it?”
Revealing her motivations for becoming a nurse, she adds: “In my previous job, by the time I left it, I wasn’t getting any job satisfaction. But, you’ve only got to get one person who’s appreciative of the care and that is enough sometimes during the day to make it worthwhile.”
Finally, episode one follows 21-year-old Helen, who is nearing the end of a demanding three-year degree to fulfil her childhood dream of becoming a children’s nurse.
Helen admits: “When I started, maybe I was a little bit naïve to how much work there was. But now I definitely know. The work-life balance has kind of gone out the window and I am doing a lot more work than life, if you know what I mean. But, I know at the end it’s for a good cause.”
Helen continues: “Nurses are taking on a lot more responsibility now. What people don’t understand is, it’s not just a degree – I’m still doing a degree now, plus full time hours every single week. Just because I’m not in university, doesn’t mean I’ve not still got four assignments to be getting on with.”