10 Shifts… but TWENTY-SEVEN DRUGS ROUNDS left.

Ten shifts doesn’t sound like much, does it? Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Sounds too soon and like I don’t really know if I want to leave, doesn’t it? Sounds like, actually, I’m leaving work really soon and it hasn’t sunk in and I don’t know if I’ve really thought it through?

I’ve found it helps reinforce my faith in my decision to think of it in terms of medication rounds. That’s twenty-seven. I’m also going to write it out in words, rather than numbers. ‘Twenty-seven’ is about a hundred times as many as just ‘27’, surely? It’s also twenty-seven of something unknown and unpredictable… will it be:

  • twenty-seven drugs rounds where every patient on the ward has a complicated diabetic regime involving bizarre super-strength non-formulary insulins (not available anywhere in the region except, currently, the patient’s kitchen cupboard, in their locked house, to which no-one has a key)?
  • Twenty-seven drugs rounds where each patient is on forty-three different tablets, each of which needs to be considered, withheld, delayed or adjusted depending on their blood pressure or kidney function or whimsy?
  • Twenty-seven drugs rounds where everything will just be prescribed a little bit wrong?
  • Twenty-seven drugs rounds where every patient’s usual routine (which really we should let them stick to in hospital unless there’s a good reason not to) is to have their medication at slightly different times to those the new electronic meds chart allows?
  • Twenty-seven drugs rounds where everything needs to be second-checked?*
  • Twenty-seven drugs rounds where every patient hasn’t got a cannula and really really needs some IV anti-emetics RIGHT NOW because they’re vomiting all over you? And they’re really scared of needles. And they’re angry. And they’re big and scary.

 Twenty-seven drugs rounds suddenly feels like a hell of an undertaking. It’s only ten shifts though. And that’s somehow even more terrifying.

It’s a funny old thing, though; the things that are off-putting about work are the sort of institutionally boring bits. Tedious tech-wrangling. Trying to make sure our workload isn’t so procedural and task-oriented that we bulldoze over people’s usual routines (I’m thinking of the diabetics who’ve managed fine for years, who come into hospital with something completely unrelated, and are completely thrown off kilter because we fiddle about with something that was just fine). There’s a balance to find – we need to be flexible around the lives and daily routines of our patients, but have enough of a routine of our own that everything gets done, you know? And so that everything gets done even when a couple of things make it trickier, like that fighting vomiting needlephobe, or someone who needs extra attention because they’re getting sicker, or crying, or dying, or because they’ve just told you there’s no one looking after their dog (/fish/cat/wife/child/geranium) or any of the reasons people need a bit more time. Or someone tries to jump out of the window. Or someone tries to smash the doors with a fire extinguisher. Those are the bits that aren’t boring, aren’t off-putting, and can be an absolute joy. I’m really going to miss nursing; people are endlessly varied and fascinating.

*Apparently in paediatrics they second-check everything, even Calpol and stuff. Questions for paediatric nurses: (a) before you started, did you know that all the medication you give would require a second signature? (b) Would you still have gone into paediatric nursing if you’d known you’d have to chase other nurses with iPads and expiry dates every time you saw a fifteen-year-old asthmatic surreptitiously use their blue inhaler?

Friday Night’s Alright For Procrastinating

I’m working early tomorrow so ‘Friday night’ (wo0o0o) is a largely academic proposal. Literally so tonight, as I battle to explain in 1000 well-evidenced yet articulate and accessible words why kiwi fruit are just so damn good for you. I don’t know that it’s even true; they’re currently making me question all my decisions – and they make my mouth hurt… does anyone else get that?

It’s so easy, when you’re putting off an essay or a bit of writing that you just can’t get started on, to do absolutely anything else. If I pitch this right to myself, I might be able to swing it so that the things I do when I’m trying not to write about kiwi fruit* are also things I need to do. I NEED to do the dishes, so if I have a more unattractive prospect (like kiwi fruit) to defer, I might actually do them. I’m currently blogging rather than writing about kiwi fruit, obviously, and when I’ve finished this I’m going to clean the animals out.

The animals in question are three elderly guinea pigs, and two big house bunnies. The bunnies, Frank and Midna, are the perfect pets for me; they don’t like being picked up, but will deign to sit next to us for a stroke or to try and steal knock-off Aldi Oreos. They’re not cute – Frank in particular looks like a blobfish. They’re as aloof, manipulative and independent as an unrewarding cat, but they don’t expect me to have meat in the house (please don’t bring meat to my house) and their pooh doesn’t smell as bad. It’s not lovely, but it’s not as bad as cat pooh.

I’d better go and sort it out.

THEN kiwi fruit.

*or paracetamol, or Wolff-Parkinson-White, or why chiropractors are good or why they aren’t, or vitamin D or the limbic system or why vaccines grown in fetal bovine serum on old dog kidney cells are better than ones grown in the stuff inside fertilised hen’s eggs** or any of the other things I’ve decided I can write something about at a moment’s notice because That’s My Job Now.

**but not that because I’m on an ethical tightrope.***

***nothing in medicine is ethical, except cognitive dissonance.

Eleven Shifts Left!

Eleven shifts to go. Still mixing excitement and dread.

I’m finding it tricky trying to build up more freelance clients while I’m still working; I feel a little bit overwhelmed by my schedule at the minute. I’ve got a few things I need to do, but I’ve got shifts to fit in, it’s half term right now and going freelance is meant to mean I get more time with the kids, not less, and I’m going away for a couple of days next week for a kind of family thing.

I had an idea for a story – unfortunately it involves time travel and I can’t cope with that. The sticking point in the plot is that you know (because you’re from the future) that someone you meet (in the past) will die horribly.

So you save them and they don’t die.

So you don’t know they need saving.

So you don’t save them and they die.

So you do know they need saving.

So you save them and they don’t die.

So you don’t know they need saving.

So you don’t save them.

So you do know they need saving.

So you save them.

So you don’t know they need saving.


Classic terrible time travel story. There’s more to it than that, but really, time travel is a terrible idea. Anyway, I’m not an imaginative sort of writer, and with fiction there’s always the risk that you’ll write an embarrassing horrific Stephen King-esque sex scene and never be able to look any of your family in the face again.

Week… Three? Thursday?

I might have to pay to remove ads from this blog. There was an ad for some kind of magic weight loss which I’d hate to pop up on something I’d written about radical self-acceptance. Urgh.

That interview I had last week… I’ve got to the next stage where they’ve asked me to write a couple of articles. I’ve got some other ones to do so it’s slightly counter-intuitive to put off paid work in favour of maybe-work, plus it’s half term next week, and I’ve got a family funeral to attend the week after. I keep telling myself that my ability to manage time will be much better once I’m not working my real (not real, but, well, you know, current) job, but these are all the sorts of things that do pop up anyway. Families need to be seen, children need school holidays, all of that.

School holidays, spending time with my family… that’s why freelancing is the way to go, and maybe I shouldn’t be swayed just because I had an enjoyable interview at a nice place that would be really fantastic work experience. Just that potential has thrown a spanner in my mental plan. No… I’ve got my heart set on freelancing. It’s flexible, it’s comfortable, I don’t have to commute, and I choose my hours. And I might even have the potential to earn a reasonable salary. Yep, Freelancing is the boy, it’s the one for me, it’s the way to go, it’s the smart choice. I can do it in my pyjamas. Freelance freelance freelance.

Anyway, I’d better go and do my best at this article because I really want this other job.

Week Three, Monday

I have 14 shifts left before I leave work. As I’m walking out with no guaranteed income and will be on the nurse bank for the same hospital there’s a good chance I’ll be there quite a lot anyway, but it’s a psychological hurdle.

As I’m getting closer to leaving, I’m aware that I may be dependent on the intrinsic social value of Being A Nurse. If asked, I would have always said that one of the more annoying thing about nurses, and healthcare workers in general is that having a job – a ‘vocation’ – that is almost universally agreed to be Good, and that we are taught from childhood is a hard, worthy, perhaps noble occupation is… well, not very good for you. People can become martyrs to an image, and once we start believing ourselves to be good because we’ve got a certain job then maybe we stop really being Good at all, if only because we’re tacitly subscribing to the idea that other people’s occupations might be less worthy than ours.

With that as a disclaimer, I know that I’m leaving a job where it’s really important that you’re present and focused and where if you’re late it might mean that someone who’s been there for thirteen hours has to stay and wait for you or risk lives from short staffing. I’m leaving a job with high societal value to go to a job where, actually, the only person who’ll really take any harm from my not doing the work is myself. I’ll need to make a conscious effort to enjoy and value the work I’m doing, even if it’s not ennobled and classically, biblically worthy. I am leaving nursing. That means I no longer want to anoint the sores of the afflicted, wash the feet of the infectious, scrub the false teeth of the unwashed and purulent public. Am I less Good? Maybe. Will I be less valued in society? Certainly. Will I enjoy my life more? Possibly; I’m alright, Jack, I’ll leave the anointing to someone else.

Week Two – Thursday

Running update: I went to the doctor and said that my knee hurt, and that I was starting to blame the damp weather and did that mean I’m old? She vehemently – passionately – opposed the idea that I’m old (it turned out she’s the same age as me), declared my knee swollen and clicky, and referred me to musculo-skeletal.

More work’s come in, from a longer-term client… I feel like it’s all coming up Lainie. The fear of leaving the NHS comes in waves – I’ll be losing out on their pension plan, sick pay, funded training and other cynical employee retention ploys. And the feeling that I’m working for something good, you know? An organisation which allows me to see a GP, for free, when I’ve got a sore knee (that’s poetry) who will refer me to a specialist, for free, and if I need hospital treatment, that would all be free too (I know, I pay taxes, happily; free at point of contact is amazing, and free for people who can’t pay taxes is amazing). I love the NHS, as an employer, as a carer, as a concept. Yet I have absolutely no doubt that, once I’ve left, I will never want to go back on the wards.

It’s my daughter’s school harvest festival today. She says I don’t have to go as it’s dead boring and Goddist (her word), but I’ll go along, for solidarity as much as parenting.

Anyway, nice cup of tea.

Week Two – Wednesday

I had that interview today… I don’t know if I’ll get the job, but it’s very interesting – exciting – compelling – to see that there’s life outside the NHS. Healthcare workers might be the only people who suffer office work ideation. Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is our hymn. I’ve got sixteen official shifts left, taking me up to the 1st of December. You know what that means? Christmas off. Christmas off! But without having to give birth or be seriously ill or mortally wounded. Working Christmas can be okay… everyone’s in it together, and we wear silly hats or light-up earrings or other infection control-compliant and clinically appropriate festive knickknacks. And it beats eating sprouts with your once-a-year relatives, all disinhibited by that particular cocktail of endless Christmas drinks sloshing together in your belly: a glass of wine while you’re cooking; a beer while you’re watching telly; champagne with dinner; port with afters; you have to open the whiskey your in-laws gave you – you don’t really want to share it but it would be churlish not to, especially when you’ve just had some of that too-sweet gin liqueur someone gave your mum (she didn’t want to share it but felt it would be churlish not to). Add mashed celeriac, shake it up.

I’ve got an article to get in tomorrow, and two more for Monday. Operation: Consistent Writing Work is go!

My son (he’s 11) just asked me what I’m doing. I said ‘blogging’. He said ‘mum, do you even know what blogging is?’ then ‘It’s not cool. Vlogging’s cool.’

Day… Whatever. End of Week One (of Eight).

I’ve turned down two more clients today. The first one for being a cheapskate (they seem to have the highest demands, i.e. lowest respect for their writers, as well as just not being a reasonable hourly rate, and – on Upwork at least – taking on cheap jobs is visible, and shows that you’ve done jobs for low pay recently). The other one wanted the work done by Monday (it’s Thursday, and I’m working Friday-Saturday-Sunday on the ward. When I’m finished work properly I’ll be able to do jobs at short notice. Maybe.
I think I’ve got 19 shifts to go until I finish. I can’t believe I’m really finishing work. I’ll probably turn up at half seven on a few Saturday mornings before I realise it’s forever.

Knee still sore. Blaming it on ‘the damp’… need to look up why people blame joint pain and arthritis flare-ups on ‘the damp’. Someone will have done some research.
I had a phone call the other day: I’ve got an interview – no, not an interview, a ’45 minute informal chat about my capabilities and ambitions’ with a healthcare communications agency in Sunderland next Wednesday. They sound perfect, actually. I’d sort of set my sights on freelancing but what if someone wanted to give me some of that sweet guaranteed income action for writing and researching and interviewing and stuff? Imagine me! Johnny Day-job! …there are a million reasons why freelancing would be better, and a million why it wouldn’t. I really, really want to maintain flexibility, see my children and such. Maybe they’d be people I could work with ad hoc, part time, or freelance. Maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself and just wait and see what this ‘informal chat’ is all about. What do you wear to not-interviews? Smart-casual? Smasual? About 99%* of wanting to leave nursing is wanting to wear my own clothes. I have some excellent clothes. I want to wear excellent clothes all the time. Or pyjamas, probably more of the time.
*to any prospective clients who might be reading this, not all my assertions are apocryphal, not all my adjectives are hyperbolic, not all my statistics are just made up. ‘I need some well-researched, evidence-based, accurate yet jargon-free and accessible copy, stat! Quick, call Elaine Francis!’

Day Three…ish

My blog posts are out of sync with my real days. Damnit. I got my easy assignment in… all good. Did you know that misaddressed emails are the number one cause of data loss for UK businesses? I get a lot of emails at work for another Elaine Francis who is rather more successful than me. It’s fine, because I’m not a cyber criminal, but you see how easy it would be. Add ‘cyber criminal’ to my list of possible jobs if this doesn’t work out.
I had an interview with an agency today. Ad hoc, as-I-want-it work, for a bit more money… I could do a few shifts a month to maintain some sort of guaranteed income, and with the flexibility to work around writing more. It’s a video interview… I hate them. Sometimes freelance clients want them, so I’d better get used to it. I stood my phone on a pile of books rather than rest it on the desk and be seen from double chin angle. The light was behind me. I’m not dressing for company on a day off.

Quandary: I really need to take any work I can get, but I’ve already turned down two independent and diametrically opposed clients: an antivaxxer (insert rictus grin emoji here), and a researcher wanting a paper on the virtues of their flu vaccine manufacture method – using kidney cells taken from spaniels (a long time ago) grown in foetal bovine serum (look it up) rather than fertilised hens’ eggs, like traditional flu vaccines. I feel like I may be walking a thin ethical line between bullshit and evil.

Knee still hurts. Might run tomorrow.

Day Two

I have an actual freelance assignment to do… dead easy, 1000 words. Suddenly finding the hoovering, dishes, repotting plants etc. very important and time-critical. I might pull up some of the flooring in that bit of the kitchen that feels sort of spongey to walk on. I’ve got two days to do the article, anyway. It’ll be fine. Unless I suddenly get a huge influx of lucrative freelance work needing done within a single day. That’s never happened before, admittedly. It’ll probably be fine.

My current most-used emoji is that one that looks like the face you do when you’ve made a mistake… teeth bared, square mouthed, a face associated with a sharp intake of breath, with waiting for a reaction when you realise you’ve misjudged your audience; the rictus grin emoji. My knee hurts. Day off from running.
When I’m freelance I’m going to dye my hair green and eat nothing but raw garlic.