Celebrities Janet Street-Porter, Gail Porter and Sean Hughes as Nurses

Wednesday 31 January: 20.00–21.00

On the front line of modern medicine, nurses are regularly confronted with situations that require a strong stomach and mental toughness. In this compelling new reality series, three celebrities find out if they have what it takes to succeed in this most testing of professions. Janet Street-Porter, Gail Porter and Sean Hughes spend two weeks as auxiliary nurses in training, working alongside the staff at Barnsley Hospital and immersing themselves in every aspect of a nurse’s life.

Janet Street-Porter, a journalist and broadcaster famous for an outspoken and often controversial approach to subjects, readily admits that she has a terrible bedside manner. What she does have is enormous self-confidence and a willingness to talk openly to the patients, as she demonstrates while feeding an elderly patient. By contrast, Sean Hughes is a scruffy and laid-back character who claims he has “never had a job”. A stand-up comedian of 20 years, Sean is more used to a couple of hours of intense concentration than a full day’s graft. He recognises that this could be a problem – as could his self-confessed fear of hospitals.

As a mother, Gail Porter might be considered more suited than the other two to the caring side of the nursing profession, but she worries that her emotional vulnerability will fail her in the extreme situations that can occur – especially on the ward to which she is first assigned, the Medical Emergency Unit. However, Gail’s enthusiasm makes her the star pupil among the new nurses.

Meanwhile, Janet Street-Porter is on unfamiliar ground in the labour suite. She is relieved to find that an expectant mother’s lack of experience almost matches her own, and playfully berates the young woman for not having attended antenatal classes. But while she has caused no offence on this occasion, Janet is later warned that she must tone down her sometimes abrasive remarks, or risk upsetting a more sensitive patient.

This insistence on professionalism is made clear to all three of the celebrities, and they are told that regardless of their status in the outside world they will be given no special treatment while on duty. Moreover, they will continue to live as nurses after their shifts have finished, sleeping in hospital accommodation. Sean and Gail treat their somewhat meagre residence with good humour, but Janet has other ideas. Within minutes, the building manager has been summoned, and Janet has talked her way into a private room.

The following day consists of intensive training for the three prospective nurses, none of whom have had any formal medical training before, while the hospital staff decide who will be assigned where. Sean is allocated to the children’s ward: although he has no kids of his own, he has made a good impression on his supervisor, who is sure he will be able to cope. Gail, too, has impressed her superiors, and they decide to put her in what is potentially the most testing environment of all – the A&E unit. Janet, despite her gruff exterior, has shown an unexpected tenderness and aptitude when bathing a newborn baby, so it is decided that, after a pep talk from nursing administrator Bernie Ah-Fat, she will be allocated to the labour suite.

After just a few days of familiarising themselves with the different wards, working hours and the lifestyle of an auxiliary nurse, the three celebrities still have a huge amount to learn – and it is doubtful that anything could fully prepare them for what is to come in the weeks to follow…

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