sink or swim NHS student nurses

Learning the hard way…

To illustrate the ‘sink or swim’ method of being a student nurse in a British hospital in 1972, here is the tale of the stoma. I don’t remember much about how we were assigned patients during the day and evening shifts or if we were given particular tasks in order to broaden our ward experiences?

.A staff nurse told me to change Mrs. X’s dressing.  I guess I might have tried to ascertain information about my patient’s chart or maybe not.  More likely I was directed to change a dressing on a patient I knew nothing about!   We already had been taught how to do a basic dressing in class. So I gathered up a disposable dressing tray and headed to her bed. She had an abdominal dressing, so I proceeded to take it off following aseptic technique.  To my utter shock, under the dressing was a dark pink fleshy bulge protruding out of her skin! I quickly told the patient that I had forgotten something and would be right back.; of course I covered her ‘wound’ with a couple of sterile swabs, before I left.  I had never seen anything like it and had no idea what had happened to her. I found the staff nurse and expressed my concerns. She looked at me as if I was a nincompoop and stated that Mrs. X had had a colostomy and that meant part of her bowel was exposed and that is what her ‘wound’ was!

4 weeks of classroom training had not prepared me for that!  I had never even heard of a colostomy!   Well, live and learn.

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