I’m on my first ever placement since becoming a student nurse. Our first semester is over and there’s been plenty of time to wonder and worry about what going out into practice will be like. I was excited, nervous, and terrified all at once.
Will the service users be happy for me to work with them? Will the staff be okay with me asking lots of questions? What will I learn whilst I’m here? So many questions have been swimming round my head. To be honest, more questions have been cropping up as the weeks have flown by, but I’ve come to realise that’s what nursing is about. How else will I learn if I don’t ask questions?
My first placement is on a non-NHS recovery and rehabilitation mental health unit. The service users are admitted having spent time on acute wards so this hospital is a sort of ‘stepping stone’ in the recovery process for people with a range of different mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder where nurses and support workers help them to develop the confidence and skills to carry out day-to-day activities including self-care tasks and cooking. I didn’t know much about the ward before coming on placement here, and the main thing I’ve learned is to ask anyone and everyone questions. Speaking to staff has been super helpful for learning the clinical skills involved in working as a nurse. I’ve gotten to practice and learn about person-centred care, administering medication and what lots of the abbreviations mean (wow, there are so many!) to name a few. I’ve sat in on ward round meetings where the multi-disciplinary team made up of nurses, doctors, care co-ordinators (basically community-based nurses), service users, family members, and any other relevant professionals get together to discuss medication, discharging patients, and any other developments for each service user. I’ve also potted up tablets for patients and found this a good opportunity to ask about what the different meds do and carry out some drug calculations. A lot of my time has been spent talking to service users, and these conversations have given me a great insight into what it’s like to stay on the ward. I was pleasantly shocked how much rapport with people you can build just by asking them about their day, and they’ll often appreciate the company and conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been perfect. I really struggled for a while with this nagging feeling that I was useless, and it creeps up every now and again. At times I’ve felt like a burden to the staff. I mean, I’ve been practically following staff round like a shadow and asking them to explain things that are probably really basic to them. As the weeks have passed my knowledge of how the unit runs has grown massively, though of course there are still things I’m not confident enough to try. Recently one of the nurses asked if I wanted to draw up medicine into a depot injection, but this was my first time even seeing one in person so I asked if I could watch instead. It’s okay to say you’re not ready if you don’t feel it. Honestly, there’s no rush to dive straight into every single thing right away, and although I felt disappointed in myself for a moment I reminded myself that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice skills like this in the future. After all, going on a spoke to a depot clinic can be arranged when I feel ready.