Placement 1: Ward Based: Medical

I wanted to write a blog post about my first placement, as a whole! I wrote a few diary-style entries and thought I’d collate them and post them on here. I don’t think anyone reads my blogs so it isn’t a huge deal, but I love looking back and this is something that I will look back on forever!

5th May 2015 to 31st July 2015!

My first placement is on the horizon. I start my placement in a London College for one week performing health checks on the students and teachers. This ranges from blood pressure, measuring their BMI – and also offering information on sexual health.

Following this week, I finally begin my 12 weeks stint in a hospital. I’ve been allocated a hospital in London, on a Gastrointestinal and Liver ward.

I cannot even begin to explain to you how excited I am. Being a nurse is my dream and I am finally tasting the career that will be my future. I can’t wait to be hands on, helping patients and learning everything I can.

It also keeps occurring to me that I will never forget this placement, this feeling that I am experiencing, and the speciality of ward I am working on. Who knows, this could be the introduction to a specialism that I may want to cater my career to.

This page on my blog will be solely based around my first placements: both the college and the hospital. I think not only will this be a nice idea for other student nurses, but for me to look back on as I grow and develop as a nurse.

So keep updated, comment and enjoy the ride with me – wish me luck!

Hackney Community Project
This first week of our placement was basically to ease us into person to person care. We were expected to conduct health screenings on teachers and students from a local college. It was a little strange as it was the first time that I was the person in control of the situation. I wasn’t taking someone’s blood pressure who also knew how to take blood pressure too, these people were relying on the information I gave them – which felt amazing! We could finally use all of the information and theory we had learnt since September last year.

So I arrived at 8:45 dressed smartly, ready to advice people to exercise, eat well and use contraception. Yep, it was warts and everything.

I really enjoyed the day! Especially as me and my friend snuck off to a restaurant for a celebratory cocktail and burger. I love finally executing the role that I’ve waited so long to do!

Apologies that this update has not been posted sooner, but it has taken me a long time to get into the swing of placement. I am very lucky; the people are great and the patients are everything to me. But the long hours with no minute to spare causes extreme exhaustion on my days off.

So here’s a little bit of a back story up till now..
My first day, I was terrified! I have no previous hands on experience in health care. The morning of my first day, as soon as I woke up I had the realisation that if I wasn’t able to handle the sights and smells, this journey would be over. Everything I want, my dream would be finished. This thought made my nerves even worse. I was a mess on my first morning. My lovely boyfriend drove me in and was so supportive.
One little side note, if you’re reading my blog for an idea of what being a student nurse is like, and you’re in a relationship, it will test it. It will test you’re strength as a couple as it is a really difficult time in your life. My boyfriend has shown me nothing but support and has been my rock throughout the tears and stress of my course.

As I arrived at the hospital, I walked through the doors after a very long cuddle (I didn’t want to let Tom go). I stopped at my turning and walked up the two flights of stairs to my ward. I got to the top of the stairs and on the left is my ward and the right, is the female ward. For a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. I really don’t want this to sound dramatic but when something means this much to you, your body takes over. I felt sick, and I felt my anxiety returning. I had to take a deep breath, and calm myself down before entering the ward.
Being on a GI and Liver ward, the smells can be off-putting, especially for someone as green to the world of hospitals as me. It was a shock to the system, but I carried on. I got changed, and waited for hand over.

Hand over happens at the beginning of every shift, where the nurses, doctors and healthcare support workers sit down and discuss each patient’s care. This ranges from information about their medical history, current symptoms, medications and even if they’ve had a bad nights sleep and seem a little moody. My first hand over I will never forget, I was clueless! You’re taught never to abbreviate and as soon as you enter the real world, everything is abbreviated!

Once hand over is finished you begin your shift, which is where the fun begins! Since starting placement I have really gained confidence in personal care. I am so proud of myself, as I feel a nurses greatest skill is the ability to care physically for the cleanliness, dignity and emotion of their patient. If you’re about to start placement and have no experience, my advice is take every second in and take it slowly. The smells are shocking and the first genitals you see – you’re not too sure where to look. Bums everywhere and (depending where you are), dentures flying across the room. Take it in, see it for what it is and carry on. I am four weeks in and I cannot explain how much I’ve learnt, and more importantly – how much my confidence has grown.

For those who are interested in actual procedures I have done/witnessed. I have removed cannulas, executed injections, catheter and stoma care, medication’s, personal care and many other things. I’ve observed the insertion of a catheter, cannula, ascitic drain, heart echo, chest x-ray, bladder scan and other things too!

I am due back tomorrow for more fun and antics. We have 23 beds, which means 23 people who will never leave my heart. It’s hard work and it is draining, but I wouldn’t swap my experience for the world. I get to care and help people for a career, I am the luckiest girl in the world!

So two things I must remember next time I’m on placement. Be you and be bold. And to blog more regularly!

I’ve finally finished and I had the most amazing experience. I’ve learnt so much and have gained skills that I will use for the rest of my career. It is nice to have my life back but I do miss the ward.

A few things I learnt whilst on the ward not only consist of skill and emotion, but also about how you carry yourself.

1. Emotional Barriers
On our first day of university, our lecturer Anne told us that throughout our career we’d have to learn how to put up a barrier emotionally – whether that is when you are upset, angry or frustrated. No matter what the emotion – you’re a healthcare professional (professional being the key word)

Now on my placement, I saw vomit, all types of poo, urine (with blood in it), urine (with worms in it), urine (in general), death, life, dementia, cancer, insides on the outside – you name it, I’ve likely seen it. However when you ‘see’ it – sometimes your heart drops and you feel like your gut is going to fall out of your behind. But you can’t portray that with a giggle, or with a scream. That patient (or sometimes their relative) is feeling what your feeling, on steroids. They are feeling 150% more upset, 150% more disgusted or 150% more embarrassed.

I am a very emotional person, so I was worried about this aspect of my job. I cry very easily and if I’m very upset find it hard to stop. But my best advice is to remember, as soon as you put on your uniform – your barrier is there. This idea works, and when faced with some very heartbreaking deaths and very unpleasant smells, I was able to keep my cool, offer a hand to hold and a face that didn’t judge the situation.

2. If you’re in an uncomfortable position – confront it
This is a difficult one, for me personally. I’ve had to deal with more unreasonable idiots than I’d like to. Which makes dealing with confrontation difficult.

I was faced with a situation that made me extremely uncomfortable and despite knowing I needed to confront it, I felt I couldn’t. The person made it apparent that they felt that they knew everyone, was friends with everyone – and very much made me feel like I was an outsider trying to work my way in. In addition, the person was overpowering and patronising. When I am patronised, it is the one situation where I genuinely see red. I’ve never been good at being treated like an imbecile, just due to the fact that I am not one, therefore I have to remove myself from the situation.

Anyway, long story short – it wasn’t until my last week that I told my mentor about my experience with this person. I only felt the confidence to tell my mentor as another student was experiencing the same problem, with the same person. Rightly so, the person has been given the relevant discipline and after speaking to our Ward Manager and Matron, when asked if we wanted to take it further we said no. We felt that being aware of the their behaviour, they would have the decency to not repeat the same mistake again.

Unfortunately now, when I return to work on this ward as agency staff, I will feel anxious to see the person. Despite the team taking me under their wing and the majority making me feel like part of the family (we all went out after work, etc) – he’s actions and the way it was left is now awkward.

Next time, for my benefit I will be confronting the situation. I was trying to do the right thing to not cause tension on the ward, but my actions meant that I made everyone else comfortable except myself.

I’ve been lucky because the Ward Manager and Matron are aware and are very much supporting myself and the other student, and the nurses and sisters are aware and supporting us. The team I worked with almost adopted me to their team and want me to come back and work there. But if I didn’t grow as close to the team, and dealt with it in this way – it would jeopardise my opportunity to work on that ward.

Life lesson: think, confront, move on.

3. Be on time!!
Nothing is more unprofessional than a bad timekeeper. When you are sitting in hand over and you’re already being interrupted by the consultants coming in at 7:45, the phlebotomists coming in between 7:30-8:00 (our handover time), you don’t want or need anymore interruptions. I can honestly say I was always 30 minutes early, that way I could change, grab a coffee and be in the nurses office by 7:20 with a seat, the hand over sheet ready to learn about my patients.

4. Make a good impression.
Yes, you’re trying to cope with all of these new smells, new people, new experiences. But please remember your placement is also your job interview. You have an allotted time to make an impression. Graft, ask questions, get your hands dirty. I promise, once you have to handle bodily fluids once, you can do it again – the worse is over.

5. Be grateful.
I was lucky enough to have the near perfect placement (it would’ve been perfect if I wasn’t faced with that uncomfortable situation), but not everyone does. What I’d recommend to do is always come home and think about two good aspects of your day, for every bad aspect.

If your placement is 100% torture for you, and you aren’t able to move wards/hospitals. Then be strong, there is a huge community of other nursing students in your place of study, in your placement area and online. Gain support from your peers and finish. When you do finish, thank them for their support, smile and leave. You can go home and celebrate it being over, and they can’t say a bad word about you to any future employers.

Learning to be a nurse isn’t easy, its long hours and physical. Just take each day for what it is. Have dreams and be ambitious – but remember you are not yet qualified.


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