That’s it – we survived our first placement! One step closer to that blue uniform. I’ve spent the last ten weeks on an elderly rehabilitation ward where the patients are quite poorly, needing help to wash, dress, eat and get to the toilet. I’ve had good days and bad, and it’s been physically and mentally challenging at times. Looking back, I thought I’d share some of the key things I’ve learnt so far:
1. Nursing is messy
…and the bodily fluids are only the half of it! It’s complicated and unpredictable and sometimes it feels impossible to use all the theory we’ve been taught at Uni in practice. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and I’ve had to constantly adjust and adapt to match the needs of each patient, who are all individuals with their own character, ideas and worries. No two days are ever the same, that’s for sure!
2. Healthcare assistants are our best friends
On my first day someone asked me to get a bedpan from the sluice. I literally had no idea what they meant or what I should be looking for – I think I walked round the ward for a good five minutes before I finally plucked up the courage to ask. I had to start from scratch and it was the healthcare assistants on our ward that really helped teach me the core elements of care. I especially loved seeing the way they relate to patients; singing a familiar song to a distressed patient with dementia or taking the time to paint someones nails. They have become invaluable allies and I owe a lot to their patience and encouragement.
3. It’s the little things that count
It’s so easy to get caught up in the long lists of jobs that need to be completed and forget what really matters to the patient. Whether it’s spending time combing someones hair or fetching a fresh jug of cold water, those small acts are what make people feel cared for.
4. Fake it ’til you make it
There have been few nerve-racking moments over the last few weeks; my first bed bath, giving an injection, doing a drug round – but patients can smell fear and I think when I’m anxious, they feel worried and uncomfortable too. Even when I’m nervous and my heart is going 100 miles an hour I now try my best to at least appear calm and in control. Hopefully one day it’ll all be second nature – but for now, I’m just going to have to fake it!
5. It’s down to me to make the most of every placement
On a busy ward, you can’t spend every minute with your mentor or another nurse but as a result, you sometimes feel like you’re missing out on learning proper ‘nursey’ things. I’ve learnt to ask lots of questions and always have an ear out for anything going on – ‘what’s that? did someone say catheter?’ It can be tempting to watch procedures but one nurse told me not to hesitate and get stuck in – patients are usually understanding that things might take a little longer and can give just as much encouragement.
I hope everyone has enjoyed their first placement and we would love to hear about things you’ve learnt over the past ten weeks – feel free to post on our Facebook page.