Nurses: Nikki, Nick and Barbara
Author: Bette Paul
Age Group: 12-18
Nikki feels she has nothing in common with her community nursing patients, until she realises that some
problems are the same wherever you are. Now she needs the courage to face her own problems...
Nick is not looking forward to nursing a lot of little kids, but once he starts, soon finds he is having a good
time. He soon starts thinking about his own childhood, and and things he hasn't thought about since he
was a boy. Maybe this term could be more important than he expected...
Barbara has always loved singing, but her accompanist wants more commitment from her, and to go for
the big time. Nursing and singing don't mix, which means Barbara has a big decision to make.
"Traumatic spinal lesion.” The lecturer yawned and glanced languidly around the room, then pounced.
“Nikki – will you sum up for us, please?”Nikki Browne, preoccupied with a few traumas of her own just
then, blinked rapidly and blushed. “I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t quite catch. . .” she said breathlessly. “C-c-c-
could you repeat the question, please?”She saw his thin mouth tighten, his eloquent eyebrow rise slightly
as he said, slowly and clearly, as if addressing a foreigner, “Traumatic spinal lesion – a description,
Nikki, please.” He took a deep breath. “Unless, of course, you’re suffering from a touch of post-traumatic
amnesia yourself?” he suggested, mildly.Nobody laughed at the joke: most of the students in the group
had felt the sting of this man’s sarcasm one time or another, though Nikki Browne had suffered more than
most. Now she sat, speechless with embarrassment, her mind utterly blank – his comment about post-
traumatic amnesia was nearer to the truth than he could ever have imagined. Of course she knew the
symptoms, the causes and the outcomes of spinal lesions – she had good cause to – but she couldn’t
talk about them, not here, not to the intimidating Mr Jenkins.He sighed deeply. “Well, perhaps you should
make a note.” He stared at her unopened file. “Can anyone tell me the symptoms of traumatic spinal
lesions?” he asked without much hope.Some bold soul made a halting suggestion, someone else added
to it and, as they spoke, Nikki made an attempt to write. But her hand was trembling, her eyes blurred
and the result was an illegible mess. At the end of the session she fled.“That was Horrible Huw – you
don’t want to take any notice of him,” Katie Harding told Nikki as they sat with Barbara and Claire in the
kitchen at Kelham’s, their student house. The first-year Kelham’s group were always known as “les Six”,
though in fact there were only five of them in residence that term: Jan Buczowski had been granted
compassionate leave so that he could go back to central Europe and see his family. Claire Donovan, who
missed Jan more than she ever admitted to the others, clucked sympathetically at Nikki.“Will you have
some more coffee?” she said. “You look as if you need it.”“Thank you, no.” Nikki shook her head
miserably.“Don’t let him get to you,” Katie advised breezily. “He’s only on a short-term contract – he’ll be
gone before we have first-year exams.”“How on earth do you get to know these things?” Barbara
Robinson asked. “I’d have thought staff contracts were top secret.”“Not if you’re on the union executive,”
said Katie, grinning. “There are no secrets from us.”“I’ll bet!” smiled Barbara. Katie Harding was renowned
for her enthusiastic participation on several student committees.“If you’re so powerful, why don’t you get
something done about Huw Jenkins?” Claire Donovan was most indignant. “Just look at the state he’s got
Nikki into!”They all turned to look at Nikki, who was certainly in a state – face flushed, hands shaking, a
hint of tears.