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Student Nurses: Bedpans and Bandages

12 February 2014

Bedpans and Bandages is a factual, fly on the wall documentary following the lives of student nurses at various stages in their quest to be a fully fledged staff nurse. Britain's Nurses was invited to review the first two episodes of this new ITV programme.

Judging from the frankly awful title, I was expecting it to be depressing and bland. Instead I found myself quickly warming to the central characters and getting emotionally involved with their stories.

What comes across straight away is their pride in the career they have chosen. This is a genuine pride in nursing.

Aimee looked after her grandad when he had a stroke and was there when he passed away at home, unable to save him. In an emotional segment Aimee says "I'll make him proud."

Helen always dreamed of being a children's nurse and is now fulfilling that dream. She absolutely loves her role even though the demands of fitting a degree around working on the wards doesn't do much for her work/ life balance: "I'm doing a lot more work than life."

The demands of modern nursing are realistically portrayed. Kelly does her first long day and tells her mentor "I've not seen you stop all day." At the end of her shift Kelly says:

I don't know how they do it every day. My feet are aching, my back is killing me and my legs are like jelly

One of the students is an ex medical rep, turned nurse called Takunda, known as TK. He works on a children's ward and has a tremendous natural rapport with his young patients. "In the first year I was like a mouse, but now I always introduce myself straight away." TK has little children of his own and again the programme shows the reality of a long day in nursing. The narrator casually mentions "TK is now in the 13th hour of his shift..."

The best thing about Bedpans and Bandages is that it simply allows the stories to unfold. There is not a big political agenda going on. We see real life events as they happen, and see and hear for ourselves how the students cope.

A mature student, Dany, nurses a seriously ill patient and then goes home at the end of her shift and worries about her wellbeing all night long. I think all of us have been there.

'She was the first thing I thought about when I woke up.'

I'm really pleased this is on prime time TV on a Friday night. It's a shame the first episode is on Valentine's Day, but in a way that is what nursing is all about. Friday/ Valentine's day/ Christmas day - they are all nursing days.

So far Bedpans and Bandages has covered a wide range of ward based nursing roles, with little coverage given to community nursing. I hope this will change in the coming episodes, but it's not a big gripe for a programme that makes you proud to be a nurse.

Please let us know what you think.

Matthew Jennings, News and Features Editor at Britain's Nurses

Student Nurses: Bedpans and Bandages airs on ITV1 at 8pm on Friday 14th February.

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