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Nurse Bel and the Patient who Fell Over

July 29, 2014

Bel squats down in front of her patient. “So just for now, while you’re still a bit unsteady on your feet, you need to ask one of us to walk with you if you want to go to the bathroom or if you want to get round to the other side of your bed or anything. I’m not saying you’re not to walk – we want you to walk – I’m just saying don’t try and do it on your own. Is that OK?”

“Oh I don’t know love…I don’t like bothering you. You’re all so busy.”

“Doreen, you’re not bothering us. Really. It’s what we’re here for. It would be a lot more bother for us if you fell over, believe me – and if you hurt yourself, you might not get out of here as quick. I thought you were desperate to go home?”

“Well I am, I suppose. It’s the grandson’s school play in a couple of weeks, and he says to me ‘Nan’ he says ‘I want you sitting in the front row.”

“Got a big part, has he?”

“Starring! He wants to be an actor!” She sighs, grandmotherly pride unexpectedly giving way to reflection. “I dunno, kids today, eh? I just wish I knew where he gets it from, that’s what I wish. Nobody in our family ever went in for dramatics.”

Bel would like to stay and discuss the outlook for theatrically-inclined British youth, but knows she has to get on. Struggling to her feet she says “I’d better start watching out for him on the telly in a few years time then…Look” pointing to demonstrate “your call bell’s there, where you can reach. Just give it a press if you want us to come and help you with anything…anything at all. Will you promise me you’ll use it?”

“You’re a nice nurse, you are. Don’t you talk nice?”

Bel laughs. “Some people say I’m too posh.”

“Don’t you listen to ’em love. There’s nothing wrong with talking nice”.

Bel taps the call-bell one last time before she departs. “Doreen…just call us if you need us. OK?”


Half-way through the drugs round in the men’s bay, Bel hears the commotion. “Get out of the way willya? I want to see the nurse!”

She’s grateful to Joseph, the new support worker, whose punctiliousness holds off the approaching storm for enough time for her to dispense at least the first two patients’ medication. “Staff Nurse is doing drugs round” he says. “You are not allowed to interrupt.”

“I don’t. Fucking. Care. My mum’s in that other room, yeah, and she told me that she fell over this afternoon because you lot couldn’t be arsed to look after her, and I want to know what the fuck’s going on!”

“Would you please not swear?”

“I’ll swear if I fucking-well want to! Now get me. The fucking. Nurse!”

Joseph knows when he’s beaten. “All right. I will get her.”


Bel always finds, in these situations, that it’s best to look as if she’s approaching it with an open mind. “Hello” she says brightly as she ushers Doreen’s daughter into the office. “I’m Bel, the nurse in charge of this area. How can I help?”

The daughter ignores the offer of a chair. She starts shouting almost before Bel can get the door closed. “My mum Doreen, she’s in that room, yeah…?”


“…and she fell over this afternoon, and I want to know if she’s OK, but then as well, as well as that, yeah, I want to know why you wasn’t looking after her.”

Bel takes a deep breath. “OK. To answer your first question” she says “she’s fine. Doctor examined her straight after it happened, and he was satisfied there were no injuries. But of course, we’ll keep a close eye on her and if we, or you, or your mum, are worried in any way, we’ll get doctor back again. And he prescribed painkillers, so if she gets any bruising, or aching, anything like that, and it hurts, all she has to do is say, and we’ll give her something for it.”

The daughter looks sulky. “OK” she says finally. “But why wasn’t you looking after her?”

“We were looking after her.”

“Are you stupid or what? You can’t have been looking after her, can you, because if you had have been, she would never have fallen over. Duh!”

“Look, I’m very, very sorry about your mum’s fall, but you have to understand what happened. I explained to her that she needs to ask for a nurse to walk with her to the bathroom and I gave her the bell so she could do just that, but she didn’t use it. She told us she thought she could make it on her own and she didn’t want to bother us”. Bel smiles ruefully. “Too nice for her own good, that’s your mum’s trouble.”

The the proffered olive branch is tossed aside. “So you’re trying to say it’s my mum’s fault now, are you? You’re trying to say it’s my mum’s fault that you don’t know how to do your own fucking job?”

“I’m so sorry, really I am, but it’s not about whose fault it is. It’s more like…well, like making the wrong choice, I suppose. You know, when something seems like such a great idea, but it doesn’t quite turn out the way you thought it would and then…

Bel doesn’t reach the end of her sentence before the daughter bursts out again.“I can’t believe I’m fucking hearing this! She could have killed herself in there, but it don’t matter to you, does it, because it turns out it was all her own fault because she ‘made the wrong choice’. Jesus! She’s worth ten – no, make that twenty – of stuck-up cows like you, my mum is, and you’re just sat there blaming her! Well I’m not leaving til I speak to your boss. No. Your Modern Matron or whatever you call them these days.”

Bel contemplates a pair of scissors that someone has left on the desk. “Shall I slit my throat now” she thinks “in this room, right in front of you? Would that satisfy you?” Out loud, she says “Please. Can you not see that this is no one’s fault?”

The daughter doesn’t answer. Instead, she takes out her phone and turns away slightly. “Yeah babe, it’s me…at the hospital… the twats have only let her fall over haven’t they?…Yeah, some load of crap…No, she’s fine…The thing is, nobody here knows what the fuck they’re doing. Can you come up?”


Maggie Jones squats down in front of her patient. “Doreen” she says, pointing at Bel “did this nurse explain to that you had to use to call bell if you wanted to go to the bathroom”?

Doreen looks anxiously at her daughters, both standing over her, the second newly-arrived. “Oh I don’t know. She said something…maybe I didn’t really understand…I can’t remember what she said now…Does it matter?”

The first daughter rolls her eyes and looks at her sister. “Mum” she says “I’m not surprised you can’t understand her, the way she talks: ‘yaw yaw yaw’ – that’s what she sounds like. I can’t hardly understand her myself, she’s that far up her own arse”.

“Yes, well, regrettably some of our staff do have…communication issues” nods Maggie Jones. “I know it doesn’t address the difficulties you’ve encountered here today, but I can assure you that as a Trust, we are actively committed to rolling out a new five-pronged strategy aimed at measurably improving competencies in this area.” With obvious relief, she turns to Bel. “You might be a good early candidate!” she says.

Silenced by the presence of Doreen and her daughters, Bel’s disbelief goes unvoiced. “Are you for real?” she thinks. “You’re seriously suggesting that I need communication training because I speak correct English? And meanwhile, these two women who’ve been effing and blinding at me all afternoon, you’re tugging your forelock at them and telling them that I’m the one with the problem…”

The first daughter looks at her watch and turns to her sister. “Babe, I gotta go” she says. “I didn’t realise the time, with this bloody carry-on. I’ll  text you later, yeah? I’ve got to pick Callum up from his elocution lesson and he’ll kill me if I’m late”.

“OK babe” says the second daughter. “Catch you later”.

Through her despair, Bel thinks she catches the words ‘elocution lesson’. As she looks round to see what’s going on, Doreen catches her eye and winks mischievously. “See?” she says. “I told you my grandson’s going to be an actor! Got to learn to talk proper, hasn’t he?”



From → Nurse Bel

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