Scary new experience?

After my first week in A&E, I had a sort of epiphany. A realisation that I probably should have had sooner – better late than never though I guess!

Though this is more a state of fact than advice, I believe it’s worth writing about to enforce the idea for students either just entering practice, or returning 2nd/3rd year students that may feel the added pressure and expectation from staff.

We are student nurses, we are in practice not to fill staffing numbers, or to be ignored, but instead to learn. We are going to come across new things that we are not always prepared for, we are going to be asked to perform jobs we’ve never done before and we are going to see things that we are unaccustomed to. Trying to learn, help patients and also work within our competency limits is a skilful juggling act that we all become experts in. However, though we love to be students and learn new things, it doesn’t stop us getting that anxious ball in our chest or the extra shine to our faces when it’s a brand-new experience.

To get to the point… Whilst in A&E this week I saw my first emergency situation, it was around 6am when we got that call from the Paramedics and I have to admit I got nervous! All these thoughts went through my mind like ‘what if my presence interrupts care?’ and ‘what if they ask me to get something and I don’t know where that is?’ I hope I’m not the only one who worries about these things.

The patient was going to arrive in 5 minutes, clock is ticking, heart is pounding. I’m looking to my mentor for guidance, she’s looking at me with reassurance and then the patient is brought through the doors into resus. I’m trying to take everything in, first looking at the patient’s presentation, then the parent’s reaction to the scenario. I thought about how this must look to them, their child out of reach, people rushing around them, alarms buzzing, lights flashing, indistinguishable equipment being used. Within seconds my attention went to the wonder of this team, everyone so confident in their role, assured in their tasks and skilled through practice. I became involved in this team in my own time, taking over observations and documentation when appropriate.

After the stabilisation of the patient I stood back and that’s when it hit me, what was I so nervous about? Why was I so nervous for this new experience? I am a student nurse, I am not counted in their staffing numbers, I am not expected to take over care because well, I’m not needed to. This brilliant medical team ensured this patients survival. I had been worried about being put in terrifying situations where I would be a hindrance to care due to my lack of experience in this area. That was never going to happen. I suddenly felt this weight leave my shoulders and felt the need to reassure other students who may be having similar worries. We are students, we are here to learn and staff understand this. It is always scary being in a new situation or being asked to perform a task for the first time. However, we should get comfort from the fact it is ok not to know the answers, it is okay to want to step back and watch if unsure. It does not matter if we are in a new experience because the professionals around us are experienced, we are here to learn. So, we should always say yes to experiencing something new! We should all simply remember, if we do not know an answer that’s ok, if we’re nervous that’s expected. Just be honest with your team, because everyone in this team has been a student too.

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