Hazel Powell – My Shift That Made a Difference

The advice I was given when I started my nurse training 35 years ago was to do my general nursing first as that would give me more career options. So my plan was to do my general nursing then follow this up with a mental health bridging course (you could do that then). Fast forward several months and I was on my surgical placement at the district general hospital, enjoying developing my clinical skills.I was helping distribute fresh water and waited outside a room as the team doing the ward round came out. I was curious why everyone seemed not to notice the 35 year old lady in the bed who was trying very hard and failing not to cry, her shoulders gently moving as she tried to hold back tears. Nobody looked her or me in the eye, the team started discussing the next patient and moved off to the next room.

I went in put the jug of water on the side table, sat on the bed, took the ladies hand and said ‘Are you ok?’ The flood gates opened the lady sobbed loudly and as a just turned 18 year old I remember feeling self-conscious but moved closer and held her. She had just been informed that her cancer was terminal and she was scared, for herself, for her husband and for her 3 under 10 children.

I cannot recall how long I stayed but it was some time later that I came out of the room. The staff nurse took me to one side and told me off for sitting on the bed as this was not allowed due to infection control standards. I felt well 2 inches tall, said nothing and kept busy and out of the way. Feeling vulnerable and tired I remember crying all the way home at the ‘wrongness’ of the situation and my own inability to stand up for myself or the lady in the room who deserved time, comfort and support.

This shift changed my life because it made me realise that nursing at its core to me was about relationships and a humanistic approach. I went straight up to the nursing college and set in motion the ball to swap to mental health nursing.

Hazel Powell, Deputy Director of Nursing and Patient Experience.