So you think you can nurse?

Wednesday 14 February: 20.00–21.00

In the last part of this compelling reality series, three celebrities have a week left to prove they have what it takes to succeed in the most testing of professions. Will Janet Street-Porter, Gail Porter and Sean Hughes impress the staff at Barnsley Hospital, where they are working as auxiliary nurses-in-training?

Gail starts the new week in the A&E ward. Treating around 1,200 patients a week, this is the busiest part of the hospital. Gail will be mentored by veterans Margaret and Kevin, who have 35 years’ experience between them. Reality hits home quickly when Craig, a badly beaten-up 28-year-old, is admitted. He has a broken nose and severe blows to the eyes which need immediate stitching. However, his sense of humour is intact and the injuries are mainly superficial. This is not the case with Gail’s next patient, a man who has suffered a cardiac arrest and massive head injuries. Despite trying for almost an hour, the team is unable to resuscitate him. “I’ve never seen anyone die,” says a shell-shocked Gail, who must remain behind to clear up while staff break the tragic news to the family of the deceased.

By the time she has tackled the busiest shift of all – Friday’s night shift in A&E – she is showing an aptitude for nursing. However, she is not sure how to deal with teenager James. Having fallen off his bike after drinking six litres of cider, he vomits repeatedly for over an hour, leaving Gail uncertain of how to help.

Meanwhile, Janet must spend a second week on the maternity ward. From now on, she will be playing a vital role in the delivery room. Her first caesarean goes smoothly and quickly. But this is not the case with a later labour, which does not progress as fast as midwife Jane would like. Jane is pleasantly surprised when the easily bored Janet stays beyond her shift hours in the hope of seeing the birth through to its end. But will it ever happen? “Short of getting a sink plunger, I’m not sure what I can do!” jokes Janet with mum Sam. But although she is helpful and supportive with the mothers-tobe, Janet finds it hard to stay patient outside the delivery room. “I’m sick of being filmed,” she complains. Can she maintain her composure and be given a favourable report at the end of the week?

After a week on the children’s ward, Sean now moves on to orthopaedics, where patients are treated after serious operations. Under the watchful eye of lead nurse Anne, he will be expected to undertake the full duties of an auxiliary nurse, from cleaning and feeding patients to helping with actual nursing tasks. Anne is impressed with the patience and consideration he demonstrates when dealing with elderly patients, helping to wash them and clean their wounds. “You’ve got a gentle hand,” approves patient Laura, who is recovering from a hip replacement. Sean is delighted, and states that he is more interested in the patient being happy than in gaining the approval of staff.

But at the end of the week, Sean and the other two celebrities will be given some official feedback on their performance. Which of them, if any, will have impressed boss Bernie enough to be deemed possible nurse material?

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.

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…

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…

Coming soon…
In this three-part educational entertainment series, celebrities experience first-hand the challenges of being an NHS nurse. Writer and broadcaster Janet Street Porter, TV presenter Gail Porter and comedian Sean Hughes have been given full access to working wards in Barnsley General Hospital. Residing in the nurses’ quarters on hospital grounds, they work as auxiliary nurses-intraining for two exhausting weeks and immerse themselves in every aspect of a nurse’s life.

Each celebrity is assigned to a specialist ward within the hospital, where the nursing is multidisciplinary. The principal training will take place on the job, under the supervision of a ward manager. Janet Street Porter, known for her strong opinions on the NHS, will be assisting expectant mothers and helping the midwives with births and csections in the maternity wing; Sean Hughes battles his phobia of hospitals to work on the paediatric and orthopaedic wards; and Gail Porter supports the nurses in the Accident and Emergency, where she is reduced to tears by the daily stresses of coping with blood, vomit and bedbathing patients. In just two weeks, will Janet, Sean and Gail prove that anyone can nurse?

Five has commissioned Granada Factual London to produce So You Think You Can Nurse, a three-part educational entertainment series to be transmitted early this year, it was announced today.

Writer and broadcaster Janet Street Porter, TV presenter Gail Porter and comedian Sean Hughes have been given full access to working wards in Barnsley General Hospital to experience first-hand the daily challenges of being a National Health Service nurse. The celebrities will be taking part in this life-changing experience of operating as auxiliary nurses-in-training for two exhausting weeks at the hospital.

Each celebrity will be designated a specialist ward within the hospital where the nursing is multi-disciplinary. The principal training will take place on-the-job under the supervision of their ward manager. They will be residing in the primitive nurses’ quarters on the hospital grounds, submerging themselves in every aspect of an NHS nurse’s life.

Janet Street Porter, known for her strong opinions on the NHS will be assisting expectant mothers, helping the midwives with births and c-sections in the maternity wing.

Sean Hughes will battle against his phobia of hospitals and will work on the paediatric and orthopaedic wards.

Gail Porter will be supporting the nurses in Barnsley’s Accident and Emergency and finds herself in tears dealing with the daily traumatic experiences including coping with blood, vomit and bed-bathing patients.

In just two weeks, have Janet, Sean and Gail proved that anyone can nurse?

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1