Sleepless in Birmingham

Entering my second day in the United Kingdom, I can safely say that jet lag can and should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. After we took off on the London-Heathrow flight, I quickly realized after taking a melatonin that I can not sleep on planes! I assumed my exhaustion would help me despite the fact that I’m a stomach sleeper, but to my horror I did not get a wink of sleep. Which brings me to my beginning statement. Since take off at 8am est May 7th, we have been moving non stop with no pretty much no breaks. While my body continued to carry me on our multi-mile stroll through Birmingham, my brain desperately wanted to shut down for many many hours. When I finally got a chance to relax, I foolishly napped for a few hours. It felt good at the moment, but when I tried to sleep a little while later I was subjected to hours of tossing and turning and I learned that I simply can not sleep soundly in a new place. Hopefully it will wear off soon.

Something I had to relearn which I had forgotten from my previous trip to Europe is that the drivers here will NOT STOP. They must assume you have survival instincts and will move out of the way, because they do not slow down. It brings back a distinct memory of nearly being flattened by a car that came out of nowhere in Westendorf Austria. Though I joke about these incidents, it seems to be a real issue. When we visited St. Martins in the bullring, a small display was set up to honor the victims of and draw attention to vehicular violence across the United Kingdom. This was a sobering thing to see and reminded me to be more careful.

As we drove from the airport to the hotel, I napped on and off. But in the moments I was awake, I felt a striking sense of familiarity while I was laying my eyes on a new place for the first time. The rolling hills, roaming farm animals behind wire fences, and open fields reminded me of eighty-four Pennsylvania. Eighty-Four is a tiny town located 30-40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. I mention this town because it is where my grandparents on my mother’s side live and was a staple of my childhood. I included a photo of it as my main picture for the blog.

Drawing this comparison helped me realize that there can be comfort in the unknown. No matter how daunting this trip can be sometimes, I can always find a way back home through the places I see, Which ties into the point of this trip. Comparative healthcare and education is not only finding the differences, but the ways we overlap as well. 

Now, onto more profound observations. Prior to our first session, I was extremely anxious about what the faculty would be like, but those fears quickly went away. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating and funny! I always knew I enjoyed British humor, but I was not fully aware of how much I’d enjoy it until now. 

Though our session was brief, I have absorbed so much information already. One of my main takeaways was how different nursing programs and nursing as a profession are here from what we know in the US. For starters, BCU has a 3 year program. That is common in the states as well, but it’s still a notable difference. One big difference in curriculum is that students here choose a specific specialty, such as adult nursing or midwifery, and stick to that track and receive training that aligns with that section of the field. Contrasting this with Pitt’s strategy of giving all nursing students a general education with opportunities to take specialty courses in senior year, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I get how it can be helpful for career application, but I feel like it forces students into deciding what they want to do early on. At this moment I’m unsure of the type of nurse I want to be, so this sounds incredibly stressful. 

Another aspect of nursing that shocked me was a lack of national exams like the NCLEX being required to practice. Nursing students who have completed their education register with a registry called the NMC and are able to practice not only in England but in other countries. Coming from the US, where nurses in certain states can’t even move to another state and work immediately most of the time, this was amazing to me but frustrating at the same time. I realized how restrictive our system can be, and am now beginning to question how much good it is actually doing.

I am so excited to attend our first class tomorrow and experience more of the UK in the coming weeks. Having learned so much in just 2 days, I can’t wait to see what is left in store!

Leave a Reply