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Psychiatry can be a very high-stress occupation and I tend to think that the innovative ways which people find of relieving that stress often reflect such extremes. Like many professions, Psych Nursing has it's great traditions and this is certainly true of some of the treatment specially reserved for the benefit and edification of the fledgling student nurse.

After a twelve week placement on Ward 13, I was still reeling a bit from 'Scrotum-Shock' (technical term), but I think otherwise I'd got off pretty lightly. Little did I know what my next placement held in store: Psychogeriatrics.

The Charge Nurse of this ward for the elderly and infirm of mind, was a fantastic bloke. Ivan was a BIG fellow who was big on patient care and big on student training. His right-hand man Mike, closely resembled Ivan in his all-in-wrestler physique and his enthusiasm for making guests welcome. So I suppose it was to no surprise that the end of my first week on the ward found me swarthily bundled into a hospital linen bag and dangling out of a second-storey window, with my boots hanging from a nearby tree.

Psychogeriatric care is by its nature, a somewhat messy business. Incontinence - both urinary and faecal - are unfortunate facts of life (and that was just the staff) as our elderly folk gradually lost their grip on life and bodily wastes. It was often a sad sight to behold, but Ivan's team did their utmost to offer the best quality of life under the circumstances. And plenty of entertainment.

On one occasion I arrived early on the ward, full of enthusiasm after a fine weekend away (the roster gave you one long weekend every 6 weeks). As I donned my protective hospital standard-issue white coat I found that someone had sewn it up at the wrists. Popping the stitching provided only momentary triumph as my hands disappeared into deep pockets filled with talcum powder and something resembling KY Jelly.

Looking back I'm not sure what I miss more, the impromptu fully clothed bath-attacks, the enema fights, the strapped-tightly-in-the-wheelchair death rides, or perhaps it was the old 'dip your finger in the bedpan and lick it afterward like I just did' routine. A sharp learner soon learnt to adopt the subtle change of finger technique.