So you think you can nurse? Episode 2 of 3

Wednesday 7 February: 20.00–21.00

Three celebrities, one hospital and no turning back. In the second of three programmes, Janet Street- Porter, Gail Porter and Sean Hughes tackle their first shifts as auxiliary nurses-in-training, working alongside the staff at Barnsley Hospital.

Gail is spending her first week on Ward 18, the Medical Emergency Unit, where patient turnover is fast and furious. She starts with basic tasks like emptying bed pans, but things get trickier when she must help give a bed bath to a 92-year-old stroke victim. Moving the patient causes him to vomit – and with blood also in evidence, it’s all a bit much for Gail. She keeps her cool at the bedside but is tearful afterwards, queasy at the sight of bodily fluids and shaken by the sight of someone so helpless.

Yet Gail rises to the occasion when faced with an even greater challenge: assisting a consultant as he inserts an arterial line to monitor a patient’s blood pressure. Gail’s part in this delicate procedure involves stopping the man’s wrist from twisting. It’s no task for the squeamish, but Gail hardly bats an eyelid. Unfortunately, an infected blister on her foot gets progressively worse during the course of the week. Nurse Scott is concerned and sends her home early from her last shift on Friday. Will she be back to full strength by Monday?

Meanwhile, Janet is making an impression on the maternity ward. It’s not long before she must help with her first birth, lending moral support to 23- year-old mum-to-be Jo. “That took a lot of pushing,” Janet reflects once baby Cameron has been delivered. Next, she must join midwife Kerry to examine the placenta, and is disgusted when Kerry tells her that some parents choose to take their baby’s placenta home and cook it. “I’ll get you some of the recipes,” Kerry promises.

The next day’s shift is less eventful for Janet. “Don’t make me bath another baby!” she groans. And even when another woman in labour is admitted, Janet is frustrated by how long the birth takes. “I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather be doing on a Friday,” she says – and this is not lost on midwife Jane . “Janet seems to have a really short attention span,” she notes, seeming hurt that someone would find her profession boring. Not wanting to offend Jane, Janet insists that it is only some aspects of the job that she finds dull.

By contrast, there’s never a dull moment for Sean, who will spend the next week on the children’s ward. First, he must help auxiliary nurse Vicky give a bed bath to 12-year-old Daniel, who has cerebral palsy. Vicky sends Sean off to find some baby-bath solution but ends up having to go and search for him. Time management is a vital part of nursing so Sean will need to buck his ideas up to get through the next couple of weeks.

Next day he is assigned to the day surgery to look after young patients going through theatre. First, he must scrub up – a procedure that should take “at least three minutes but no longer than five,” according to Tony, who shows Sean the ropes. But the comedian quickly finds out that there is more to this than meets the eye. Tony explains that scrubbing up entails keeping your hands above your elbows at all times. Twenty minutes later, a sweating Sean is still trying to get the hang of it. “After going through that I feel I should be allowed to operate!” he jokes once he has finally finished. In fact, he will be acting as a second pair of hands for the surgeon, who is not permitted to touch anything that is not sterile.

But Sean really comes into his own when it comes to interacting with children, whether escorting 12-year-old Aaron to the anaesthetic room or distracting five-year-old Leona while she is having a blood sample taken. After initial scepticism, lead nurse Sue has been won round. “You’ve not stopped,” she notes. “And you’ve certainly got a skill at building up a rapport with children.” So Sean ends his first week at the hospital on a high note. But as the pressure only promises to intensify, none of the celebrities can afford to rest on their laurels.

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