Learning from the ground up

As a student nurse, especially in first year or on your first placement, it can feel really daunting first stepping onto a ward. I had absolutely no previous experience of working in a hospital and next to no knowledge about what it would really be like when I got there.

What jobs would I be asked to do? Would I be left alone with patients? Would I be administering life support in the first 10 minutes? That sort of thing.

The key thing to keep in mind throughout first Placement, I found, is that this is the first step of the marathon that is your Nursing training. It is true that training goes fast, honestly I can’t believe I’m over halfway through it already! But I wouldn’t be anywhere near as confident in the more complex things I do now, without my basic training in Nursing care.

I completely understand new student nurses’ frustration at the end of a day on placement if you feel you’ve only been doing basic tasks such as bed baths, repositioning or obs all day. It feels like you’re not being taken seriously or even used as free labor, this is not the case.

Nurse_Edith_Cavell_1865-1915;_Brussels_Q70204A new Student Nurse said to me the other day that she relishes these opportunities because this is what the foundation of Nursing is built on.

Yes, you do go one to be carrying out complex, intimate and vital tasks supervised by your mentor or other staff members but you have to be realistic about this. To be honest if student nurses were performing high-risk bedside procedures on their first shift – I would be very concerned! I know I wouldn’t of felt confident or ready to be removing chest drains for example when I’d just got into clinical practice. You need to build up to these things.


A well made bed with hospital cornered sheets is a ward’s bread and butter

The basics may seem dull and repetitive but it’s often where you find your stride. When you’re giving a bay of patients their washes, helping them to use the bathroom or commode or just generally being the face they see when they press the
ir call bell, when the time comes for you to change their wound dressing or remove their catheter you are confident in yourself. Getting to know your patient and getting to know yourself and how you act under pressure is key to becoming a more reflective and efficient nurse. And don’t go thinking that this isn’t what nurses do. It is. We do the dirty work because our patients need us to and we care about their well being and I’m very proud of that fact. I’d remake every hospital bed in Manchester if it meant preventing bed sores for our patients!

That said; you shouldn’t be being used as an HCA whilst you’re on placement. Don’t be shy in asking your mentor what learning opportunities there are for you to see that day. Observe as much as you can, be nosey, be bold and ask to go on ward round with the doctors to help you get to know the sorts of conditions that your patients are suffering from. Then, when you or your mentor feel you’re ready. You can step up and know that you can do this; you have the courage and can act in a confident, competent and caring way.