I can tell I’ve been back at work for several months now by the state of my hands.

When I came back after over a year of sick and then maternity leave I had lovely soft hands and neat nails. Now my hands are bright red and chapped and my nails are short and tear easily.

This is all to do with the dozens of times per day I have to wash my hands, the multiple applications of alcohol gel per shift and not being allowed to use our own hand cream in clinical areas.

Apparently using our own hand creams will make all the oxygen cylinders explode.

For some reason.


We also get chapped lips from the air conditioning and going several hours at a time without a drink but apparently applying our own lip balm and standing too close to the oxygen cylinders won’t make them explode.

The trust supplies ‘skin conditioner’ but it’s thick and greasy and makes it difficult to put sterile gloves on afterwards. It also smells funny.

Every nurse has a hand cream that they swear by; that we slather on during breaks and then again when we get home. I have a complicated bedtime routine of multiple layers of two different  hand creams and Vaseline, cuticle cream and then sleeping with cotton gloves on to stop me covering myself, my husband and the bedding with honey and hemp scented goo.

By the time Squidge inevitably wakes up in the early hours, unable to find his dummy or just generally wanting some social interaction with my bleary-eyed self like at 0300 this morning the hand cream has generally soaked in sufficiently that I can take the gloves off before blindly feeling down the side of the cot where Squidge has inevitably thrown the dummy.

I pulled his cot away from his bedroom wall the other day and found six down there covered in varying amounts of dust. I do clean down the side of his cot.

Just not all that often.

It’s not like you can see down there.

Even though I apply enough hand cream to moisturise a lizard I still end the shift with chapped and stinging hands. Depending on how many days in a row I’ve worked and how many opportunities I’ve had to apply hand cream during my breaks my hands are so cracked they bleed.

Rubbing alcohol gel into these elicits some muttered but rather rude words.

It blimmin’ hurts.

I have a basket in the office/guest room/laundry room/general dumping ground full to the brim with hand cream. Hand creams make an ideal present for the nurse in your life, I must use pints of it every year. I have tubes of it everywhere; in my handbag (on the rare occasions I get to use it), in the nappy bag (mostly used instead of a handbag), in every room in the house, in my car…


Like baby wipes, I keep packets of those everywhere to deal with the inevitable sick/explodey poo/runny nose/general mucky mayhem that comes with having a small boy.

I also use them take off my makeup on the rare occasions that I wear it; usually only at work. This is for several reasons –

My husband knows what I look like with no makeup on and Squidge doesn’t care.

Squidge has developed the habit of grabbing my face when he’s tired and he already gets mucky enough without using my make up as finger paint to decorate the sofa.

I have been so tired after trying to get Squidge to sleep that I’ve fallen into bed, forgetting to take the makeup off and then wasting valuable sleeping time by debating whether to just sleep in it and to hell with the pillow case and my skin or whether I should behave like an adult and take it off.

Most days I’m not an adult so really it’s just easier not to put it on in the first place.

The Northern One says I look pretty without it.


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