Dear Mr Hunt.. Sorry for the silence

Dear Mr Hunt,

Apologies for the silence, it’s been a blogging drought,
Snow, anxiety, exhaustion. Pursuing gave me doubt.
I think the best place to start, is the feelings deep inside,
Anxiety, stress and panic – all I did was hide.

Sick leave came and went, and came and went again,
The faces of patients missed, were imprinted in my brain.
Hiding didn’t work, it made me feel alone,
6 months newly qualified, I’ve worked myself to the bone.

You’ll never understand our cries, our tiredness is tired,
We run on coffee and overdrafts, I’m surprised we aren’t more wired.
But Mental Health is a subject I hope evokes your passion,
Considering your our Health Secretary, it’s a struggle and not a fashion.

I went to my GP, my OH and my manager,
Although nobody can help me, I’m completely beyond my parameter.
Beta-blockers, cuddles, cries and open conversation,
I’m not quite sure I’ll fix this. What do I do for anxiety cessation?

The snow came and went, and came and went again,
Icy roads and frozen hands, how I longed for rain.
We were short staffed and tired, working beyond capacity.
Patients were missed and upset, but I feel that’s your responsibility.

Whilst others enjoyed snow days, or warmth inside their office.
We were on foot, in scarves and hats – as Brits we were a novice!
My anxiety still lays dormant, awaiting its next time to shine,
Staffing levels, equipment and morale – the state of our NHS is a crime!

Apologies if you feel nurses moan, you won’t be the only one to think this of late,
Problem is Jeremy you are wrong. We fight and always advocate.
I have no hope you read my letters, as I know you’re very busy.
Busy, I am too! Trying to cope with snow, exhaustion and anxiety.

Regards,

Emma
Community Nurse (+6 months)

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City University of London, Graduation.

We did it!

This was a constant phrase that rumbled through the spaces and nooks within the Barbican on Wednesday 31st January, 2017.

City University of London conducted the Graduation Ceremonies for the School of Health Sciences and CASS Business School at The Barbican. The largest ceremony yet, presenting 488 students with their degrees.

Incase you haven’t yet gathered, I feel incredibly proud to have been part of the ceremony that morning. 

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Ready to receive my Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Nursing.

I was lucky to be able to buy three guest tickets, meaning my parents and fiancé could watch me receive my degree. I was also really overwhelmed that both mine and Tom’s family logged on to the university website to watch the ceremony live and see me walk across the stage to represent reaching a goal in my life.

This ceremony was a very long time coming for this cohort of nurses, as it would be with any other cohort. A Nursing degree is a different type of experience to other degrees. To gain representation and our registration on the NMC Register, we had to complete 2,500 unpaid hours of clinical practice alongside the same level of academia as any other degree. My first degree was hard work and required real dedication, however this was different. It also took over my social life and my finances.

I am incredibly proud of every nurse, from Paediatric to Mental Health specialties, that walked along that stage to realise their hard work and achievements.

My wonderful fiancé made a beautiful video of the day which is up on his YouTube channel. Please do have a watch, I think it is beautifully shot.

The Barbican, as a venue, added the prestige and pride of our city to a ceremony that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was made interactive with the #CityGrad hashtag, so social media interactions were publicised on televisions around the venue. I even made the hall of fame!

The ceremony hall was just as I expected, regal and vibrant. I felt so proud to be part of the day as a graduate.

My day made, most special, by my guests. As already mentioned my parents and fiancé were able to attend and that for me, made it perfect. I was so proud to have them there. I love them, but most importantly they have all held me together during my studies when I couldn’t hold myself together.

I’d like to dedicate this post and my degree to my mother, father and fiancé. Without you, I am not half of the woman I strive to be.

Moving forward, one thing I want to mention is the inspirational people I observed receiving honorary degrees and doctorates that day. It has most definitely inspired me to push myself and grasp every learning opportunity so I can, one day, be standing on that stage inspiring someone else.

One of the speakers that day spoke of excellence, quoting Aristotle. I believe this philosophy is transferable to whatever path you take in your life. For me, upstanding my best possible standard of nursing care is what I deem as my excellence. I thought I’d finish this post with the quote the speaker read, as that in itself inspired me to carry on, with sincere intention and effort to be an excellent nurse, wherever I decide to nurse.

Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

Glossier.

I am not a beauty guru, nor do I feel I have the expertise to thoroughly review a product or a brand. I felt it would just be a good idea to discuss a beauty brand that has literally changed the game for me, especially since starting my job.

Glossier.

Glossier is a beauty brand which from what I have heard was the baby of Into The Gloss – a beautifully written blog that gives the most incredible beauty advice.

Working as a full-time nurse means that in terms of beauty, I need something that keeps my skin moisturised with good-skin ingredients that is quick and easy to apply. I need a product that won’t slip or slide and that will gracefully wear away, rather than leaving me with panda eyes and crusty red stained lips.

So we have, Glossier. My five must have products from Glossier include.
(all images from www.glossier.com)

1. Boy Brow

This is something I use daily, even days where I’m not wearing any make up and just need something to help frame my very round face.

There is pigment, it holds the hairs, it is fabulous. It isn’t crunchy like the Benefit! Gimmee Brow which is an aspect of the Boy Brow I really enjoy. I’d highly recommend if you like natural brows and a quick fix.

2. Stretch Concealer

adore this product. Again it is a lighter coverage product which I understand can make this a slightly Marmite product when its job is to cover-up. I enjoy it as it neutralises my dark circles whilst hydrating my skin. My skin is very dry in general but my under-eyes are extremely dry. This product gives maximum hydration. I also tend to dot it around my face when my skin is more problematic and it has a lovely finish.

If you prefer high coverage and a matte, oil reducing concealer then this may not be your hero.

3. Balm Dot Com

This salve is my saviour. I was gifted the Trio for Christmas from my mother and father in-law. ‘Original’ is my go-to, it is always with me. By my bed, in my handbag, in my tunic pocket. Not only is it a fantastic balm, its multi-purpose. Being a dry skin girl, I tend to use this on my lips and cuticles. It provides moisture and real love to your skin.

I also have ‘Cherry’ which smells delicious and leaves a very slight red tint which soaks in beautifully. I always keep this in my make-up bag and apply it every morning when I have finished my make up. It helps me look awake and I’ve noticed it makes my teeth look whiter. Win, win.

‘Cake’ is the third from my trio. It has the most subtle amount of tiny glitter particles in it which leaves your lips looking healthy. IT GENUINELY SMELLS LIKE CAKE. Say no more.

I’d highly recommend you buy these. If Glossier is a new venture for you, I’d say start with these. No other lip balm/salve will ever compare.

4. Haloscope

I think this is stunning. I don’t know what it is about this product but I cannot get enough. It doesn’t provide highlight to your face that reflects off of the sun to send signals to the aliens, but it does make you look very healthy.

As a nurse, I am always exhausted so a touch of this on the end of my nose, on the high points of my cheeks and a little by each tear duct, provides me with a fresh and awake look every morning.

It is my favourite highlighter to use on my tear ducts, I avoid any other as it just does not provide the same look as the holy grail, Haloscope. To apply to my cheeks, I apply some product to a stippling brush and blend. To apply to the tip of my nose and tear ducts, I apply with my finger.

I have a the shade ‘Quartz’ which is the pink version. I find for my skin tone, this is perfect.

5. Cloud Paint

The Cloud Paints are like nothing I have ever tried. They are literally paint, so my advice would be to avoid what I did on my first test and squeeze slowly. I use this as a multi-purpose product, for both lips and cheeks. You can also mix shades depending on what look you’re going for.

I have ‘Dusk’ and ‘Beam’. Both are stunning and I inter-change depending on my mood.

To apply these I apply a small amount to my cheek and blend with a stippling brush and it looks beautiful. Similarly to the rest of the Glossier products, it provides a natural flush of colour that makes you look healthy. Its beautiful.

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This blog-post is a little out of the ordinary for me but I really just wanted to write a small ode to a beauty brand that boosts my confidence and makes me feel pretty.

Thank you, Glossier.

How do you take a breath?

I’m still trying to survive being a nurse. It’s really hard and I feel like I’ve given up my soul for my profession. There we go. That’s me being honest, three and a half months in.

Please hear me out. As I feel I’ll receive a bombardment of angry people telling me that..

Your job is a calling, you should be grateful to help people in need!

You’re a nurse. It’s not a job, it’s a life choice!

It isn’t about you, it is about your patient!

Yes, all of the above are very much true. Being a Nurse is absolutely my calling in life. Never did I feel like I’d have a career where my daily input changes someone’s life.

It is a life choice. None of us go into this believing that we’ll work for a few hours a day, have a nice long lunch break and have time off over Christmas to get p*ssed with the family on Mulled Wine and hit the shops in the lead up to Christmas.

Ultimately, it is not about me it is about my patient. Well, it is to an extent. A good friend of mine suggested a while back that whilst as nurses we strive for patient centred care, we should ultimately be striving for “patient and nurse centred care”. This approach means that a burnt out nurse isn’t rushing your fathers Morphine calculation, nor is she exhausted to the point where she forgets to refer you to a Specialist for urgent treatment.

The NHS has hit a point now where burnt out nurses is not our biggest issue. Our biggest issue is that these burnt out nurses are leaving the NHS, or sometimes even the profession, in their thousands.

This week was hellish. I was in charge on Monday. It was myself and two wonderful agency nurses. We manned an entire district of patients. My heart rate sat between 84 and 150 beats per minute the entire day (50-60 beats per minute is my usual baseline). Then each day got progressively worse, more stressful. Referrals were delayed. Visits were cancelled. This was the nurse I did not sign up to be. Please believe me when I say we could not physically see every patient.

Today. Almost at the end of my list, I stopped. I was parked up outside a patients house and I couldn’t move my legs. Physically all I could do was cry, breathe quickly, panick and call my Senior Nurse who was thankfully on duty.

Not even six months in and I froze due to overwhelming, all consuming stress. Physically, mentally and emotionally I was unable to give anymore.

That makes me feel like a failure.

What nurse stops in her tracks like that? Me.

I can’t believe I’m sharing this as I feel a total failure, but somewhere on the internet in these times nurses who have been in my shoes tell me it’s going to be okay.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe today.

I urge the nursing workforce to keep going! Play to your strengths. If nights are your thing, enjoy. If wounds are your thing, assess intrinsically and monitor with an eagle eye. If management is your thing, then manage the people in this wonderful profession to feel wanted and appreciated. Feeling like a number is not only demeaning but scary when you “as a number” is putting a professional registration at risk. A registration that you’ve given up your soul to get.

How do you breathe? I’d like to know as right now, I feel like I’m struggling to.

There was a moment today that urged me to keep on going. Visiting a patient in Care Home for the first time, I was finishing up my visit with what I call an MOT (blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood sugar, etc) and I was met with a warm smile and “thank you my darling”. As I left the room, the carers stopped in amazement that he’d not only let me do these tasks, he thanked me and offered his hand when I needed to take his blood sugar. That was a 20 minute snippet of my week where I felt like a good nurse and that I can do it.

I’m still not sure how to breathe under water (i.e. being a nurse). But sometimes the smallest of things give you a minute of oxygen.

Dear Mr. Hunt..

Friday 22nd December 2017

Dear Mr Hunt,

I am writing to you, on a chilly Friday evening, I haven’t long been home from work. Day 5 out of 6 this week. I’m back tomorrow, Saturday. I then am working Christmas Eve. I am grateful as I have Christmas Day off (taken as Annual Leave, luckily) but Boxing Day and New Years Day, my Mum and Dad will have an empty chair at the dinner table as I will be at work. I am only child, so it is upsetting for me, but really hard for my parents.

Today was our work Christmas do – we couldn’t afford anything extravagant so we all arranged to meet at the office at 2pm and everyone had to bring a dish each. Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Support Workers, District Nurses, Rapid Response Nurses, Doctors, Admin.. we all turned up. Unfortunately, I am newly qualified Jeremy, and what this means is that I left to start my visits at 8 and didn’t arrive back to the office until 2:30 because I’m still new at this. I was unable to bring a dish like my lovely colleagues did and didn’t eat because I was so overwhelmed, stressed and more importantly.. I had too much work to do for my patients.

Today I visited 2 patients under 50, both bedbound. I also visited two lovely ladies, both widows (a little over 50), who have lived full lives, one a teacher (yes Jeremy, another public sector worker), who both now are also bedbound. I met a lady who was promised a stair lift to be installed before Christmas so she could spend her first Christmas in a very long time, downstairs with her family. This lady is spending Christmas in her bedroom. Social Care and NHS funds mean that they can’t install as promised. These were just under half of the people that I visited today.

Jeremy, do you love your job?

I love my job. It’s hard. It’s emotional. I’m inspired, daily. I learn something new everyday, without fail. My patients smile when I enter that key code and let myself in, because I’m the only person they will see today, and tomorrow. These men and women, from all walks of life, smile at me because I’m their nurse. I’m not a drain on government funds, I’m not a “moany Nurse”, I’m not a waste of public money (because I was fortunate enough to receive the NHS Bursary). I’m Emma, I’m their nurse. They even like me after redressing infected painful wounds, injecting their body with medicine and even after having frank conversations, explaining that “Sorry, we can’t offer you that help because the funds have been cut”.

I sometimes give information which alerts them to the fact that their deteriorating quality of life will not receive any help or support, because Primary Care and Social Care won’t be receiving anymore money, in fact, it is being cut. But you know what Jeremy, they say that they like me a lot more than they like you.

Moving on. Although morbid, have you ever thought about dying? Strange question but hear me out.

When you die, where do you want to die? Would you rather be in a hospital, surrounded my incredibly knowledgable healthcare staff. Or at home? Where you feel comfortable, surrounded by your family? Your wife? Children?

You see Jeremy, thanks to the NHS myself and my colleagues enable people to die wherever they want to. I will hold their hand in their final moments and embrace their family either with a cuddle or a nod of respect. In that moment their entire world has been crushed. Their heart is in a million pieces. I’m just a nurse, I can’t fix that. But boy do I stand by the fact that I will stay, chat, pray, sit in silence for as long as they need me to.

If you’ve kept with me until now, perhaps your a better man than I thought.

This is not a letter to demand higher pay, better working conditions or support for my patients. On your, so far successful, quest to slowly dismantle and privatise the NHS and other public sectors, that would be a waste of writing as your not going to budge.

If this letter ever reaches you, I’d like you for a moment just to hear my side. My name is Emma, I qualified from City University of London this year with a 2:1 Bachelor of Science Degree in Adult Nursing.

I’m a Newly Qualified Registered Nurse, and that is perhaps 0.01% of my job today and how it makes me feel.

Yours Sincerely and Merry Christmas,

Emma Mahaffy, RN.

How to cope as a Newly Qualified Nurse..

If you are reading this blog post looking for answers to the titles question, then I apologise but it is not something you’ll find perusing this post.

This is why I used “” and not “?

I’m still figuring it out.

I am currently 2 months and 10 days into my first post. The level of responsibility expected from me is increasing alongside my adrenaline levels. It’s bloody hard. I’m terrified 60%-90% of the time (depending on my diary) and I am still triple checking everything. The most frustrating thing about this time in my career is that I love what I do, I am your nurse.

One thing they never warn you during university is exactly how hard it’ll be. My university warned us that it would be really hard, just not how hard.

I have found so far that my emotions are on a constant roller coaster. One minute I feel like Florence Nightingale, the next I feel lost. Preceptorship sessions help a lot, the other three nurses are newly qualified too. Probably also terrified. But the biggest challenge for me right now is honing my emotions in and being able to understand why I feel the way I do.

It really is not all doom and gloom. I’ve had some wonderful nursing breakthroughs in my short 2 months as a Community Nurse. Firstly, I managed to extend care out to a patient who was on our caseload long term. This involved specialist nurses, social support and ensuring his GP was more aware of his nursing needs. He also gained trust in me, he often voiced how he felt I supported him wholly and genuinely. That more than anything made me realise I’ve chosen the right career.

Another nursing high for me was recognising Sepsis in a patient at home. I was terrified but my nursing intuition took over and I knew my patient needed hospitalisation, right now. I know recognising Sepsis is something all nurses should be able to do, I’m not disputing that. The big accomplishment for me was that I fought for him. I recognised the signs and fought for him to receive the right treatment, fast.

If nursing was easy, there wouldn’t be a shortage in the UK and beyond. If it was easy you wouldn’t have to complete a university degree and 2300 practice hours (for free). If it was easy, nobody would need nursing care.

I’m definitely still figuring it out, and I probably will be figuring it out for years to come. I’m slowly building some resilience and whilst sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back, slowly my one step forward is becoming a run, or a leap.

As a nursing workforce we need to look after our Student Nurses and Newly Qualified Nurses. They are our future ANP’s and Specialist Nurses. Some of them will be a Band 5 Staff Nurse for their entire career as that is what they enjoy, and they may very well notice something small that saves your life.

Give us a minute, or 10 to breathe.

Reflect. Roar. Don’t stand in the shadow.

Talk. Tell people your concerns.

Stand strong. That gut feeling, that niggle your instinct is screaming about? Tell someone. Act. It’s probably 100% correct.

I’m not sure whether this post will resonate with any nurses, or for anyone from any career background. But sometimes it feels good just to type out the tangle of words and feelings that your brain no longer wants to babysit.

I’ll report back once I’ve untangled a little more.

Emma. Registered Nurse. Community. London.

Emma, RN.

It’s Sunday evening and I am watching TV before I shower, pop my PJ’s on and set my alarm for the morning. Tomorrow I have work, as a registered nurse, in my blues.

Last Monday was my first day arriving into the office as a Community Nurse. I felt nervous, excited and quite overwhelmed, but the day went fantastically. I thought I’d write a blogpost on a few tips that I kept in mind when I qualified that I feel have helped me ease into being an RN.

Utilise experience and network from your first day of Nursing School.

Each experience, each patient and each melt-down will shape the nurse that you become.  It is so important to view each placement as a job opportunity and to gain information. The Sister I worked with on my first ward I still keep in contact with via Facebook, and my mentor at my final placement (where I now work) I’d call a friend. By networking and appreciating each nurse that teaches you means you have a support network. That support network, combined with your previous experience and knowledge will prepare you for your first day and future as an RN.

Aim to complete your final management placement somewhere where you enjoy. It’s a long three months.

You’re final management is the following:

  1. Long – it’s three months unpaid hard work. Placement? Yes. Student nurse? Yes, but proving you understand ‘accountability’. You’re not longer just a ‘student nurse’, you will be referred to as a ‘management student nurse’.
  2. Tough – you’ve just finished/finishing up your dissertation, you are at the end of three years of tough, exhausting and emotional training. It’s hard.
  3. Rewarding – you’re within touching distance of that glittery NMC PIN number.. it’s within grasp. This placement, you are the nurse, your mentor is your armbands at the side of the pool.

The reason I list these things is not to intimidate or frighten anyone approaching this final placement, it is to reinforce why it is so important to go somewhere you enjoy working. If you’ve not had any placements you have enjoyed, then choose a ward/speciality where you have an interest in. Don’t choose somewhere you think you should, because unless your gut is telling you its going to be an amazing three months, you’re sorely mistaken.

Take a break!

I know for some, financially, a break between finishing and paid work isn’t viable. If you can, please do. I had hours to catch up on due to being signed-off during my second year and I was so burnt out by the end of my three-month placement I had to take a break before completing the extra hours.

It is so important to feel rested and rejuvenated. Take a holiday if you can. Enjoy being you. For August and September, I wasn’t a student nurse, I wasn’t a newly qualified nurse, I was just Emma.
Your friends and family will appreciate it too. My friends, family and fiancé were pleased to have me back.

Prepare and get supplies. You’ll be happy to know you can still shop in those “back to school” stationary sales, even though you’re no longer a student.

My prep was to pop by my work and meet with my line manager to tell him my start date and to pick his brains about what I needed to do before I started. I left with uniform, a start date/time, people I needed to contact and my Band 5 Competency booklet.

My supplies consist of a project book to write notes in, a folder for papers, post-it’s and highlighter pens. As a community nurse I also prepped a bag for my boot (for needles, syringes, dressings, etc), a mini-make up bag for lip balm, hand cream, spare hair bands and spare pens and an in-car charger for my personal mobile, work mobile and GPS device.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail as they say!

Enjoy yourself..

Finally, embrace your first day. It’s been a long time coming and you’ve worked incredibly hard.

Congratulations, you’re an RN!

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My first day as an RN!

Placement 2: Ward Based: Surgical

My second placement was during winter 2015! It was a five week placement on a surgical ward, which was a specialised Emergency Trauma Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery ward.

When I first visited, I was in awe of the ward. I was used to a very old ward where my previous placement had been and this was in a new hospital, with new facilities and a million rooms (well perhaps not a million, but about 10). I visited prior to my placement as I sadly had two funerals I had to go to, one being a good friend; so I had to enquire whether I could choose these days to be off-duty days so I wasn’t missing out on any hours. Luckily the nurse in charge was great and understood my situation and granted me the leave.

I feel that due to the things in my personal life, I started my placement in the wrong frame of mind. The staff were amazing, I especially bonded with the ward clerk (mainly over our love of animals) and the patients were so grateful for my help – but I just wasn’t enjoying my time there. By the time the fourth week arrived I started to shift into a more positive mindset and loved it, but sadly the placement was almost over. It is such a shame that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy myself throughout, but I learned so much during my five weeks.

Being a surgical ward, there were a variety of stories behind my patients. Some elderly people who had fallen at home, some injured during a road traffic collision, some being caught in the cross fire of gang warfare and some who had attempted suicide, with no avail for them. Whilst I gained skills in removing stitches and staples, changing many types of dressings and gaining knowledge of medication, I gained a lot of confidence in listening to peoples stories and not worrying about my reply, facial expression or approach. I learned that a motor bike accident for a 23 year old lad would be sometimes far more traumatic, than the same incident with a 50 year old. I have always understood that people react in different ways, but this placement showed me that it really is the case, and that listening is sometimes the most effect medicine.

This was my first placement as a second year student nurse and by the end I could see massive improvements in my work. My fundamental nursing skills (personal care, etc) was vastly improving from my first year placement and I took pride in my work; always asking the patient if I could do anything differently.

On one occasion (mid-placement) another member of staff demanded I place a bedpan the opposite way that I had been doing so (and had been taught) as I would cause spillages. As she left, the patient who I was taking the bed pan to assured me that I had been doing fine and that the way I was placing the bedpan was perfect for her and she hadn’t had any spillages. To many, this may sound like a silly thing to mention, but as a student nurse I felt confident in my skill and my knowledge. Sometimes advice from staff is not the best teacher, patients advice is.

I am currently constantly checking availabilities to work on that ward as a HCA whilst I study, but shifts there are few and far between – which is a reflection on how great the team is there. I loved being part of such a great team and felt genuinely gutted when they invited me to the Christmas party but I couldn’t go!

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!

30.05.15
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!

07.06.15
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!

28.09.15
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.

Feet up, I passed year one of nursing school!

I’ve officially finished my first placement. I’ve passed all of my exams. I’ve passed all of my coursework. I guess you could say, I’m in my second year of nursing.

That feels very surreal

I feel really sad that my placement is over, but at the same time I am very glad for the well earned break. What people forget, is although you are a university student during your nurse training – you aren’t blessed with the same holiday times as a normal university student. As large chunks of our year are spent on placement, our exams and coursework are crammed into a smaller amount of time – meaning no time to chill.
We are given two breaks (of 2-3 weeks) during term time. The first, Christmas. We were given three weeks off to celebrate Christmas, and also to finish off two pieces of course work and revise for an exam the first week back. The second break, Easter. Only problem was that it was a two week break where we needed to revise for a biology exam, two essays and also an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination)! Not to mention our biology and OSCE being double booked, so our biology being brought back (giving us a week less to revise)..

So a cheeky glass of wine in the garden whilst I debate what to have for my lunch is a well needed lifestyle change for the next few weeks. Also working on the wards every now and again – will be bliss.