What keeps me awake at night - I trained to teach, not nurse

5th August 2011 at 01:00
Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a primary teacher in Yorkshire

I didn't do that well at school. When I say I didn't do too well, what I mean is that I achieved five GCSE grades at C or above. I passed all the others too, but they consisted of a few Ds, Es ... you know how it goes. I shuffled into a place at sixth-form and managed to scrape one pass out of the experience.

My excuse is that I simply wasn't ready to learn. Some people aren't - it took me until my mid-20s to realise I was ready to work at somewhere near the academic level I knew I was capable of.

After flirting with the idea of an access course in nursing (but eventually enrolling on the education course) and achieving a degree in education with honours and qualified teacher status, I began to teach. The whole process of becoming a teacher took me five years. A long time, don't you think?

Bearing this in mind, I was somewhat surprised to find in my first year that I would be taking on the role of a nurse by administering drugs to a diabetic three times a day - and as and when they were needed - having had no medical training.

I had a meeting with the child's nurse, headteacher, my teaching assistant and parents. It lasted over an hour and was a training session on how to use the child's intravenous insulin, his Bluetooth widget and cannula injection thingy.

I couldn't get my head around the units of insulin required, what to do if the child was hypo, hyper, or just plain hyperactive. I didn't understand what the various pieces of equipment really did, or how to read them in the first place. I struggled with the huge responsibility - and it is huge - of administering the insulin and simply getting it right. The risks involved were colossal: get it wrong and the child could enter some kind of diabetic coma or worse. That never happened, but then again that's not the point.

I had to count the child's calories, measure what he ate and when (which involved sitting with him while he ate lunch to ensure he didn't have something he shouldn't have had) and then enter the information correctly into the Bluetooth thingy.

I can't repeat it enough, but all this without a sniff of a first-aid certificate. I may sound like a whiner to many of you, moaning about my responsibilities as a teacher. But this is the problem: I'm a teacher, not a nurse. I didn't want to administer drugs to a child, and I certainly didn't want that level of responsibility in my NQT year. I'm not convinced I would like it now. Not ever, in fact.

What can one do, though? Is it fair to become a conscientious objector in your own classroom when dealing with the needs of the children you're there to teach? Maybe I should have considered the access course to nursing after all.

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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