Don’t Put Bacon on the Babies

This gem was from a friend shortly before I went for my first interview as a qualified Nurse.

I was visiting my husband who was actually fiancée and medical student then so we were waved off to the hospital where the interview was held by the other med students he lived with.

Along with the expected hugs and good luck wishes was someone who thought that I looked a bit too nervous and so his psrtuing advice was

“Remember, don’t put bacon on the babies.”

Not only would this be rather concerning behaviour, indicative of a mental breakdown on my part but I the hospital I was applying to work out had a large Jewish and Muslim population in their catchment area.

So putting bacon on the babies would be:

  1. A burns risk if the bacon was cooked.
  2. A health hazard if it wasn’t cooked
  3. Not a glowing reference of my sanity
  4. Religiously insulting

The mental image of babies wrapped in bacon popped into my head several times during the interview although I did manage to stop these thoughts becoming words.

However, it did remind me to think about cultural and religious sensitivity when answering the interview questions. Now it’s not that I need reminding to be sensitive to the beliefs and values of others. It’s just that the town where my parents still live is very multicultural and so I’ve been bought up knowing that people are different since I was small and accepting these differences is something I do without thinking.

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I abhor racism, I know the dates for the festival days of several different religions and the appropriate greetings. I am more surprised when I visit somewhere new and the majority of the population is white, it’s just not what I’m used to.

Sometimes I have come across culture clashes at work and I have been on the receiving end of abuse and intimidation. For me the most common cause has been when the Father of a baby wants to speak to a male nurse or doctor as they are not satisfied that, as a woman I am capable of properly discussing their child’s care with them.

Not only is the idea of a different gender being better equipped to describe medical terms ridiculous but by virtue of neonatology being the care of babies it tends to attract female medical professionals.

Having worked in units with over a hundred nurses each the highest number of male nurses on the staff at any one time has been three. There tend to be more male doctors and all the doctors I’ve worked with, both male and female have been happy to discuss aspects of care with parents who need some extra reassurance in top of updates with the nurses.

However, there are far fewer of them then there are nurses for the unit and so they get a little bit annoyed when parents want to speak to them about the nurse having put their baby’s nappy on too tight.

In every instance the doctors support us; they talk through any issues the parents have but also tell them that with regards to nursing care the nurses are far more knowledgeable, that we are very highly skilled and trained and that the information we give is correct.

Sometimes the parents listen but invariably they don’t. In these cases it’s about picking your battles; knowing when to tell them that the doctor is busy and that you are perfectly capable of answering their query or when to give in a fetch the inevitably harassed looking doctor.

Again, I accept that there are differences between doctors and nurses and that they fulfil different roles. I went to university for three years whereas my husband went for six, he needed higher A level results than I did to be accepted onto our respective courses and he ultimately has more responsibility than I do which is why the NHS pays him more.

I do not want to be a doctor. I love my job and being able to give constant, hands on care to a few babies and their families as opposed to carrying out proceedues for the whole unit. But I do sometimes wish that parents would listen to what I’m trying to tell them as opposed to insisted I fetch the doctor to tell them the exact same thing.

After all, it’s not like I’ve ever put bacon on the babies.

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