Simon Carr: When did nurses go from nuns to sadists?

Share
Related Topics

When all those hands went up at the nursing conference this week, there was this sudden rush of fellow feeling.

Yes, as they voted for or against the abolition or re-creation of Strategic Wellbeing Trusts or whatever they're called – I had that profoundly comforting sense "I am of these people". They hate change, and I always like that. It's not quite a counsel of despair – that things can never get better – but it does say they aren't falling for the latest big idea to make the world a better place. These administrative ideas – if that's what they were voting against – never work but they take five or 10 years to fail.

That wasn't the most important feeling though; there was a more visceral sympathy in play. When my new friends put up their hands to vote you could almost hear the effort. You could almost hear the communal grunt, like a scrum going down.

And there they were, the elevated forearms of Britain's most important nurses. Male and female, it was the same. Hands like a pound of pork sausages. Arms like hams. As the camera panned along the rows of wobbling crops, it was clear that these were people who knew the merits of a mixed box of Krispy Kremes.

And that's what I have in common with the medical left. When I'm asked how I manage to keep my figure, I reply in one word. And that word is doughnuts. Five portions a day. Glazed, jam, cream, deep-fried in multi-fats and jelly- filled. Apart from "balance" and "varied", the most widely recognised rule of nutrition is: you can't have too much of a good thing.

That is literally true. For those of us who eat bacon and eggs for breakfast – there's never any good reason to stop. You may have to lie down after an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet – but there is always room for another fried egg.

To see my private eating habits publicly endorsed by our most organised health professionals – to find the mainstream has changed course and is now lapping around my middle – that's comforting at my time of life.

In the old days, nurses didn't have much of an opinion about weight and most of them weighed what they were supposed to. Of course, there wasn't as much food in those days. It was physically impossible to eat between meals. And indeed, going back into even more primitive days, the wards were clean. Young, barely educated nurses did what they were told – and what they were told to do was wash their hands a lot, and wipe down the bedsteads with disinfectant every morning. They wore bright uniforms with starched little caps and addressed you with little terms of endearment and if they used your name it was your surname. Especially if you were older than they were. (You probably were.)

What's caused the change, if anything particular has? Is it tertiary education? That is suggested, here and there. It's been made a profession and you get in by qualifying. In those days, nurses were called; it was a vocation. Apart from the sex with doctors in the supplies cupboards on the prescription adrenalin, it was like being a nun.

That was before the war, of course, before the war between doctors and nurses had broken out. Now, the more they know the more resentful they've become.

And what a war it is – the bitterness on both sides is sectarian. And it's got worse rather than better now that everyone involved is more highly qualified. Knowledge does that to people. It makes them self-important – and, believe me, I know all about that.

It's not clear who's winning this Hippocratic battle. Doctors tread very carefully and express their feelings very guardedly and privately because they are heavily outnumbered.

The nurses feel patronised and insulted; the doctors feel sniped at and undermined by their professional inferiors. Education is always the answer, so we say, but the unintended consequences are very interesting to students of the perverse.

The nurses say: "What makes you think that seven extra years of schooling means you automatically know more than we do?" The doctors say: "Where you can make three diagnoses of a set of symptoms we can make 30. Go and wipe the bedsteads with antiseptic."

The nurses say: "You see that doctor with the red hair? He was rude to me in front of a patient. Make sure he doesn't sleep for a week." Then the doctors say things you can't put in a newspaper.

The fact is, I'm frightened of nurses. I'm a bit frightened of teachers, but nurses can hurt you as much as teachers used to be able to. They're in charge of your pain relief at night, for instance, and nights are very long when there's pain relief needed. First they don't come, and then they do come and they stick things into you. Then they pull the things out again. There is a very great variation in the way these things can be done.

They also know whether you've noted the fact that they are, by their own NHS way of measuring these things, morbidly obese. If this thought has inadvertently entered your mind, you will not be able to conceal it. It physically sticks out of your ears and they will react accordingly. "So, you think I'm fat? Don't you know I've got an NVQ in pain management? How about an epidural? No? Really?" (She leans in.) "You'll be asking me very nicely for one before the night is out."

"Take them! Take my Krispy Kremes! As many as you want!" But it does no good.

Maybe there are simply more active sadists in the profession now than before. We shall have to wait for the figures to come out in the census data.

My solution would be to create a new class of nurse below the professionals, the qualified ones, the ones with degrees. A new class of nice, sweet girls who'll wipe the bedsteads with some sort of germ killer, use little affectionate words in between our surnames, and make it their self-sacrificing vocation to soak up the hierarchical energies of the class above them – so the class above them stops taking it out on us patients.

This new level of nurses we'd know as "angels". I will dream on.

Until then – it's time for a doughnut.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The 10 biggest myths about abortion

Ann Furedi
Students protest outside the University of London on 9 December 2010 against government proposals to let universities triple tuition fees  

'I’m gonna kill this lot', and other things a police officer shouldn't be saying during a protest

Hannah Dee
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable