Antipodean Advice from a Clinical Educator

We’re very grateful to Deborah – a registered nurse and clinical educator from Australia – for her guest post contribution below, she kindly got in touch after seeing our post on The Nurse Path blog’s facebook page and has written us a fantastic post about her job role as a nurse on the other side of the world! There are some excellent tips for what registered nurses and practice education facilitators are looking for in their student nurses as well as an inspiring reminder that we are never ‘just students’. Enjoy!

Although I am half a world away from nursing students living and trying to breathe under the nursing workload in sunny Manchester, I thought I would give you a perspective from the other side, and I am not just talking about geography.

My name is Deborah and I am a Registered Nurse Division 1, who hails from Western Victoria in Australia. I have no doubt the pressures of a student nurse studying in the UK, would be similar to a student nurse studying in Australia. Assignments, tutorials, and the sheer amount of learning required would be shared across the board – and then there is clinical placement. Which is your opportunity to place what you learnt 6 months ago in a classroom into hands-on practice in an unfamiliar clinical environment whilst being watched by your peers and the dreaded clinical educator.

You see, my role is that of the clinical educator  (Note: this is a role similar to Practice Education Facilitators or PEFs, here in Manchester but perhaps more clinically involved in student placements overall). In my workplace I assist approximately 300 students (not just nursing) per year. And every one of them has different learning needs. So what do I want (expect) from you?

Of course there is the usual, be on time, in uniform, but the main thing I want to see is that you are responsible for your own learning needs. Trust me, my job is to help you consolidate your learning, but if you are not prepared, nor able to reflect on where your learning deficits are, it is not my job to “fix” this – it’s yours. Me, along with my nursing colleagues, are not mind-readers (otherwise I would have picked the lotto numbers years ago and would be retired to some island), so you need to be in control of what you need to accomplish during your time here. Being on placement costs you a fortune (missed work opportunities, being away from family, etc), so make every day count. Have a clear plan, and let staff know. If you are wanting to put in that IDC (indwelling catheter), ask them (handover is a great time to pick up these little clinical skill events), and I bet 9 times out 10 they will say yes.

BE PREPARED – for example, I do expect you to understand the 9 Rights of medication (yes – we have 9, you probably only have 6), however I don’t expect you to be a walking MIMS (Note: like the British National Formulary), but I do expect you to say – “I’m not sure, I will look this medication up prior to giving it.” What I want to see is that you are a safe practitioner, not that you can regurgitate an entire section of a Med/Surg book. What I love to see is students asking “why” – “why are we giving xyz medication in relation to that particular patient? “How” – how is this medication going to impact on my patient. “Did” – did I get the right response once I gave that medication (especially when talking about analgesia). These questions will help develop your critical thinking skills, which will take you from someone who just plods along as a nurse, to a great nurse, who saves lives.

I can assure you that any student who is engaged and keen to learn will have nurses falling over them wanting to help them consolidate their learning. Introduce yourself, and become a team player (ask if you can do those obs, shower that patient, etc) and thank them for their time. This also applies to your patients – most people love feeling that they have helped a student learn. Now you will come across the occasional staff member that may not be so “accommodating”, just remember that you will not always be a student, and resolve that when you are qualified that you will not pass this experience on your future students. If a situation upsets you, talk to your clinical educator (mentor/senior staff/PEF) –part of my role is to be your advocate.

You may be shocked to hear that I once was a student nurse, that I went to university and felt the same pressures that you do now. But have you ever considered that learning does not stop once you have your degree? So I want you to stop telling yourself and staff that you are “just a student”. Believe me you have a lot to offer, and my students teach me new stuff every single day. You have the most up to date education, so learn to share it – not only with your peers but with staff as well. Get into those clinical evidence based debates, but do it with respect. Remember we are all on the same team and share a common goal of providing the best patient care we can.

So this is my perspective from “the dark side of being a clinical educator”,  and I wish you well with your studies.  Remember the reason why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place to help carry you through the tougher parts of the job.



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