From Bears To Bandages: How I became an A&E Nurse
Chris Armstrong reveals what it was like for his sister Suzanne to realise her dream of becoming an A&E Nurse.
27th June 2017
Based on the life of Suzanne Armstrong. Written by Chris Armstrong.
Like a lot of little girls I always loved to play doctors and nurses, but to me it was always more than just a game. I took things to the next level. Every teddy, doll and borrowed action man I could get my hands on would be cocooned in bandages and plasters, loose limbs would be stitched tight and a whole host of imaginary illness and injuries cured with hours of dutiful care. I think, even then, I knew I was going to be a real nurse one day.
After school I started my training and was so proud and excited. I couldn’t think of anything else! Training flew past in a whirl of textbooks and exams. Soon, I was fully qualified, starting my new job as a busy A&E Nurse. I was both overjoyed and terrified.
I remember the night before my first shift, staring at my brand new impossibly white uniform hanging on my wardrobe. I was so proud and so scared, I broke down in tears.
I spent over a decade in A&E. I soon found that I thrived off the pressure and drew strength from the hustle and bustle of a busy department. I made some great friends (that I still have now), and worked with some fantastic nurses.
One of the things I loved about A&E was the patient turn over. I loved treating and caring for dozens, sometimes up to one hundred people per shift, moving from one patient to the next. I got to meet and treat so many lovely people every day. For a long time I was content.
Every A&E department has its bad days. Impatient and ungrateful patients demanding treatment for self inflicted drinking injuries, whilst people with genuine accidental injuries sit quietly waiting.
I was once punched in the face whilst stitching a man’s hand. He turned out to be a heroin addict, and due to this, pain medication did nothing. I was punched through frustration and pain; Something I can understand if not excuse.
After a while, I began to feel my faith in being a nurse shaken. Maybe it was one too many drunks on a Saturday night? Or seeing the results of too many careless accidents? I don’t know what it was, but I feared I was becoming a cynical and sterile nurse. I’d lost my way on the only path I had ever known, and it was hard to see the way back.
The answer came in the form of the love of my life. We married and started a family. I relocated to the other side of the country and took a position as a Senior Intensive Care Nurse. The change was exactly what I needed. My faith was restored, and I renewed my love of nursing. Caring for people one on one, helping them recover and regain control of their lives. It’s everything I want from my job.
Sometimes when the unit is busy, surging with activity and the pressure is starting to build, I remember the little girl bandaging teddy bears. I know this is where I should be and what I should be doing.
I am a nurse. I always have been, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.
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