Never ‘just’ a student

“I’m sorry, I’m just a student.”

Sound familiar? How many times have you said this while out on placement? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m ashamed to say it’s more often than I can count, especially in the first two years of my training. It possibly stems from a lack of confidence or uncertainty, perhaps a fear that I’d do or say something wrong – something we’re all bound to experience at some point during our training.

But is this lack of confidence a wider issue among qualified nurses, as well as students? Do we sometimes have a tendency, as a profession, to devalue our work and contribution? Do we see ourselves as less important or influential than other health professionals?

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Conference programme

I recently attended the 2017 Nursing and Midwifery Conference held by the newly formed Manchester Foundation Trust at Manchester Royal Infirmary. The keynote speech was given by Dr Eden Charles, a leadership coach and consultant who has been successfully supporting individuals to create cultural change in their organisations, including the NHS, for more than 30 years. He recognised that as nurses and midwives it is in our nature to give, to put others first and to sometimes put our own needs on the back burner. But, he said, with that sometimes comes a tendency to lack confidence in our huge strength and contribution as a profession. He said he often hears nurses refer to themselves as ‘just’ the nurse and is always baffled because of how important the role really is from the perspective of patients.

As student nurses or midwives, we are on the cusp of joining the largest professional body in the health service who are in a unique and privileged role as both care givers and advocates for patients. Although not yet registered, we are still an integral part of the nursing profession and make a difference in many ways to care in the NHS. The more confidently we value our contribution, the better we can speak out for our patients and give a voice to those who otherwise might not be heard.

In his speech, Dr Charles said: “Never say ‘I am just a nurse’. Change that story to ‘I am a professional nurse’. Put yourself into the world boldly and confidently as people who deserve to have a voice.” He challenged us to be ‘nursing rebels’ or ‘rebels for compassion’; to acknowledge our strength and abilities in order to gain greater influence and make changes to practice that really matter. He reminded us that leadership can be found at all levels, not just at the top; we all have a responsibility to bring about the changes we want to see. It’s not always easy or straightforward, but as students we can make positive changes by living the values that brought us to nursing or midwifery in the first place.

So I’m making a promise to myself and I hope you will too; I will never be ‘just the student’ or ‘just a nurse’ ever again.

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Thriving, not just surviving: award-winning toolkit supports the mental health of student nurses and midwives in Manchester

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Tracy Claydon, PEF

As we highlighted earlier this week, Tuesday 10 October marked World Mental Health Day, an annual, global event recognising the impact of mental health on the lives of many and the importance of showing compassion to those struggling with mental ill heath, as well as looking after our own mental wellbeing. As student nurses and midwives, we may experience a broad range of mental health issues throughout our training as we adjust to our role; juggle placement, academic work and our personal lives; and because of the distressing experiences we may be exposed to on placement. Thankfully, the wonderful team of practice education facilitators (PEFs) at the newly formed Manchester Foundation Trust  (formerly CMFT) have our backs, creating an award-winning toolkit for mentors to enable them to better look out for and support our mental health in practice. We are delighted to share this Q&A with Tracy Claydon (pictured above), PEF for the Division of Specialist Medicine and the Corporate Division at Manchester Foundation Trust and project co-founder. She gives us an overview of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit and how it aims to support students and mentors in practice.

Firstly, what is the Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit?

We identified that there was no specific practical guidance to help mentors in supporting students who may be in emotional distress and/or be experiencing issues relating to their mental health when on placement; the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (2011) indicated that as many as 29% of students may experience mental health difficulties at some point during their studies, while the National Union of Students (2015) have this figure as high as 78%. The toolkit was developed to support not only current nurses and mentors but also of course to support students to better manage the emotional demands of the role and feel supported to carry out their job confidently.

It is possible and also likely that a significant proportion of the students presenting in distress will not have a diagnosable mental illness but will be experiencing distress related to ‘life stresses’ and will need support to allow them to cope effectively with these rather than seeking to be prescribed an antidepressant or similar medication (NHS Choices, 2016). The provision of a toolkit that would provide a structure and framework for mentors to better support their students was clearly needed. The toolkit includes:

  • Tips for mentors including advice on how to discuss and identify concerns
  • Algorithms for accessing support
  • ‘Having the Initial Conversation’ guidance for mentors
  • Top Ten Tips for students to look after their own mental wellbeing
  • Agency Directory

The toolkit was launched in November 2016 and re-launched in May 2017 to coincide with World Mental Health Awareness Week which had a theme of ‘thriving or surviving’ which reinforced our message… we don’t just want our students to survive, we want them to thrive!

Where did the idea for the toolkit come from?

Students will often experience quite harrowing situations during one single placement that possibly other members of the public will go through their entire lives without seeing.

We talk often about resilience, but how do we build this? And crucially, what can we do when anxiety becomes more than a transient emotion? From a practical guidance we recognised that there were gaps in our support mechanisms within the organisation and also that we had the underpinning literature to evidence this.

The Nursing & Midwifery Council and the Royal College of Nursing recognise the potential for students to experience difficulties in their mental health and yet surprisingly neither agency has/had provided any guidance for nurses or mentors to support them.

At Manchester Foundation Trust (MFT) we wanted to fill this gap and the toolkit was developed as a resource to address this. Equally, it was also incumbent upon us to acknowledge how anxiety or a sense of isolation when not managed in the early stages can then escalate into something more concerning.

The goal was to support our students at the beginning, end and at all points in between on their placement and learning journey, so that they will recognise and regard MFT as a caring and compassionate organisation that enables students to thrive and not just survive and that they would wish to return as qualified staff.

How did you go about developing the toolkit?

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Ant Southin, Specialist Mental Health Liason Nurse

It came as a result of a real life situation where I as a PEF was supporting a compassionate and kind mentor who was struggling to support a student on placement struggling with mental health issues. Myself and my PEF colleague Sharon Green, began working on the toolkit as a resource however, the toolkit only truly started to develop when we were able to access the knowledge and skills of Specialist Mental Health Liaison Nurse, Ant Southin (based at MRI, pictured right) who was able to provide the expertise that we as registered adult nurses by background lacked. This enabled it to have a real MDT approach and became a wonderful collaboration!

How has the toolkit been used in practice so far?

For some students the situations they observe or are involved in will be the most distressing thing they have experienced. It is important that they have a means of communicating and understanding these feelings and recognising that there is help available. The Toolkit has been used in a number of situations where students were struggling to cope emotionally: including supporting students who were affected by this year’s Manchester Bombing.

What are your plans for the future of the project?

Despite having been awarded the MRI Fellowship Award at the recent Nursing and Midwifery Conference and also having been acknowledged as an example of Best practice by Health Education North West (available as an E-Win) we feel this work is still in its infancy; while it is currently aimed at students, we recognise that the messages are important for all of our staff. We hope that we can develop it to be used to support any member of staff experiencing distress. The Human Resources department have requested a meeting to begin discussions around achieving this within the wider organisation. We will be presenting at the upcoming Midwifery Forum at St. Mary’s Hospital and we have also had heard nationally from other NHS Trusts interested in adopting the toolkit within their own organisations.

The MRI Fellowship Award 2017 included a £1000 monetary prize which will be used to support ward areas to develop their own ‘buddy box / soothe box’ resource which they can then continue to develop to meet the needs of their students and staff.

…and finally, what advice would you give to student nurses and midwives to take care of our mental health while on placement?

Student nurses and midwives need to feel prepared and supported for the career they are about to embark upon. The profession is challenging and demanding but with huge personal and professional rewards. Mental health issues can affect any of us at any time in our careers and should be considered a priority for all of us whatever stage of our career we are at. By making them a priority for students it is hoped that they will continue to see this as a priority as they progress through what we hope will be successful nursing/midwifery careers. Using our dedicated #icareforme approach we will continue to maintain the profile of the huge importance of self-compassion for staff working within such challenging and complex environments. It is vital that mental health has the same parity with physical health and we can only achieve this by making it the priority it deserves and needs to be.

Thank you Tracy!! If you’re interested in learning more about the toolkit, you can find it here – in particular, take a look at the ‘Top Ten Tips for Good Mental Health’ on pages 8-9 for simple ideas that we can all use to look after our mental health.

Remember that if you are struggling with your mental health or feeling anxious, worried or depressed then don’t try and suffer on in silence. If you feel confident to do so, speak to your mentor, PEF or academic advisor (AA) or the University of Manchester has a fantastic confidential Counselling Service. Often speaking with your peers can ease the burden – you may find that others are feeling the same – or if you simply want a kind, listening ear then Nightline is another brilliant option, you can find the contact number on the back of your student card.

Welcome all first year student nurses and midwives – you made it!!

So here you are – not only have you made it to the University of Manchester, you have nailed your first week as a student nurse or midwife!! All of your hard work has paid off and you are well on your way towards those coveted blue uniforms. I’m sure you’ve heard it a hundred times already, but the three years truly do fly by. handshake

Your head is probably swirling with a whole range of thoughts and emotions, from excitement and determination to nerves and apprehension for the challenge ahead. Well rest assured, although you will have some difficult times over the next three years (we’ve all had our fair share of teary moments!) you will also meet some absolutely incredible people, see things you couldn’t imagine and come out the other side a stronger, more resilient person – and ultimately a brilliant nurse or midwife!

For now, your main focus is making new friends, getting to know Manchester and getting to grips with the academic side of nursing – all very important! For student nurses in particular, placement isn’t yet on your radar – though I’m sure you are raring to get out there are start the real-life business of nursing and midwifery. Naturally you may have some anxieties or fears…and questions…lots of questions. That’s where we come in. We are a group of student (and some now qualified!) nurses and midwives who want to help you make the most out of your placements. Having been in your shoes ourselves we know how nerve-racking (and often overwhelming) the prospect of going out into practice for the first time can be, so we started this project to give fellow student nurses and midwives informal support, information and advice based on our personal experiences.

If you’re wondering what to expect on placement and the types of experiences you may encounter, I encourage you to take a look at our dedicated blog – written by students, for students. On there you will find over 150 blogs covering everything from practical advice on how to survive your first night shift or which shoes to buy (I say Clark’s Unloops…they’re the ugliest shoes you’ve ever seen, but my god are they comfy!) to personal reflections on topics including mental healthend of life care, miscarriage and nursing in challenging conditions overseas. You will also find our ‘Placement Survival Pack’ filled with a wealth of information to help you prepare for placement. DISCLAIMER: We are busily updating the ‘Survival Pack’ for 2017/18, so watch this space – we be sharing the latest edition with you before you go out on placement so you are fully prepared.

For those of you keen to share your own experiences as a student nurse or midwife, we would love to hear from you! We think every student nurse or midwife has a unique and interesting perspective to offer and would love to find new bloggers to join our team. To get involved, simply email studentnurseplacementproject@gmail.com or send us a message on Facebook, just find us by searching ‘Student Nurse & Midwife Placement Project’.

You will be hearing from us throughout the year – but in the meantime we wish you all the very best of luck at the start of your nursing and midwifery journey! xx

Collaboration: the future of our NHS- #nurswivesunite

13151090_226356241076122_2131036156_nI write this not to highlight the negatives of our current NHS in crisis, but to address how we can collaboratively work together to save our glorious institution.

I don’t need to talk about our failing health service, I don’t need to talk about the millions of pounds needed from the money tree to keep our beloved institution a float. I don’t need to talk about what the NHS means to Britain and its people, I don’t need to talk about the pressures, the constraints we as healthcare professionals all face.

What we need to talk about is how we can change the future.  I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this is without question the hardest time ever to train to be a nurse or midwife.

We’ve lost our bursary, some of us have lost our passion, our dreams of delivering the care we want to.  Who do we thank for this? Is it a question of politics? Or has our health service just reached a tremendous plateau of increased life expectancy, a rise in population, increased complex care which have become a potent mix given the current economic climate.

How do we adapt?

Collaboration that’s how!

Collaboration– “A purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives.”

I love this definition, it epitomises what I believe is at the heart of what we all signed up for; whether you are a student midwife or student nurse we all have overlapping goals, we all CARE.

 We all want to deliver the best care possible whereby it be to a baby on neonatal unit, an Alzheimer’s patient, a child, a patient on a high dependency unit, a labouring woman, they all deserve the same amount of care and compassion.

 We are governed by the code (NMC 2015), we all follow the code, are regulated by the code, we all follow the same overlapping objectives -care, compassion and empathy.

As a whole we are truely invincible.  We have the power to stand up and fight. We have the power to change OUR NHS !!!

Let’s get to know one another, the roles we represent, the care we provide and how we can support each other.  Once we are fully united then I believe we have the power to transform and adapt to the future of our glorious glorious service.

 

Enabling quality of life in very difficult circumstances, by Kate Plant

19964730_1773600412654889_568888045_nA thought provoking guest blog, second year CYP student nurse Kate Plant shares her experiences and insights into palliative care from her DILP summer placement…


Before starting my nursing degree, I volunteered as a Sibling Support Worker at my local Children’s Hospice. So, I already had some idea about how special these places are. But it was not until I undertook my Elective Placement there that I realised how rewarding a nursing role, in the provision of Palliative Care, can be.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in pace, compared to my previous placements. I was used to dashing around on hospital wards and barely having a moment to drink. So, when I was offered a cup of tea on my first day (half an hour into my shift) I was completely taken aback. But, obviously, there were more significant differences than having the time to quench my thirst. A patient would be allocated both a nurse and a care support worker, on a 2:1 basis, due to the complexity of the patient’s needs. This 2:1 care gave nurses time to listen and understand what really matters to the patient and their family. There was no rushing around. The environment was relaxed. Families would allow a nurse and other staff members to enter their lives in very difficult circumstances and build strong relationships with them. This is where the satisfaction came in.

CYPIn addition, I have by no means observed doctors, nurses and care support workers work together as well as within palliative care. There was no division but instead, a sense of unity. This enabled a pleasant atmosphere to bloom within a setting which, stereotypically, has connotations of being constantly surrounded by upsetting situations. All staff members were part of a team, encouraging a family atmosphere so families were as comfortable and happy as possible. Staff were able to take away a families’ everyday stresses so children and their families could treasure the remaining time they have together as a family, however long this may be.

The thing that struck me the most was the parent’s enormous strength to keep a pleasant face for their terminally-ill child and their other children, in one of the hardest times they can ever face. A parent’s strength is aided through their ability to effectively plan, with help from compassionate and empathetic staff members, any wishes they have in the care their child receives before death. This includes preferred place of care, spiritual and cultural wishes and anticipatory symptom management planning.  With such a wide array of resources available at the hospice (including sensory rooms, adapted garden swings, music rooms, parent bedrooms, bereavement rooms – the list could go on and on) these wishes were almost always met.

TOGETHER_LIVES_RESIZE_800_450_90_s_c1_c_cLast year, the ‘Together for Short Lives’ charity reported a national shortage of children’s palliative care nurses which is negatively impacting on the care provided to children and families. I truly believe if other students and qualified nurses were to gain a deeper understanding and/or even experience how rewarding roles in Palliative Care can be, this could help bridge the care gap. After all, you’ll never regret making a difference in the quality of care a child or young person received, during their last moments of life.

Behind closed doors: a student nurse in general practice

When I first considered nursing as a career, it wasn’t the adrenaline-filled excitement of A&E or intensive care that attracted me; neither was it intricate technical knowledge of theatre nursing or the busy variety of working on a ward. From the outset, community-based or practice nursing had always been my ambition. Maybe I’m slightly odd, but I love chronic conditions and the idea of helping people to manage those has always been appealing. I was also attracted by the autonomy of practice nursing and opportunity to work towards advanced nursing skills like prescribing…and I can’t lie, the lack of nights or weekends didn’t seem too bad either.

Research online suggested that I would need at least two years experience, preferably in A&E, or even a masters degree before moving into general practice. I wasn’t put off, but as a mature student it felt like there were a lot of hurdles to overcome before I could realise my ambition of becoming a practice nurse. I didn’t think for a moment that I’d spend time as a student nurse in general practice – so when I tentatively checked our placement allocations earlier this year, I was over the moon to find out that I’d been placed in a GP surgery nearby.

My mentor and the whole nursing team at the surgery couldn’t have been more welcoming. I discovered that I was their first nursing student and that the surgery is leading a project locally to encourage more GP surgeries to offer placements to student nurses. Like other areas of nursing, there have been difficulties recruiting practice nurses for a number of years, partly down to current practice nurses reaching retirement age, alongside fewer newly-qualified or experienced nurses choosing practice nursing as a career. As such, surgeries like the one I was placed at want to promote general practice as an attractive place to work; they see placements for student nurses during their training as a key part of that strategy.

Over the 12 week placement I got a real insight in the role of the practice nurse. My mentor, who was also a prescriber, led on the management of chronic conditions like hypertension, asthma and COPD, which encompasses advanced assessment skills, prescribing and lifestyle advice. This was on top of bloods, smear tests, contraception advice and of course, lots of injections; a workload shared with another skilled nurse who also took care of all child immunisations and travel vaccinations. They both worked closely with an experienced care support worker who took care of ECGs and spirometry, among many other things. Meanwhile, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner also based at the surgery leads on emergency consultations, seeing everything from chest infections to mental health crises. It was fantastic to see the varied role of the nurse in general practice and just how valued they were by patients.

The first few weeks of my placement were spent observing however as the placement progressed I was encouraged by my mentor to start leading consultations under her supervision. This was nerve wracking at first, but my confidence soon grew. I was eventually given my own clinics to run, taking on straight-forward asthma reviews and blood-pressure checks. It was fantastic having my own room and calling patients in from the waiting room. I loved talking to people about their health, explaining how their medication works and making a plan together that we hoped would help them better manage their condition. The most rewarding part was seeing patients return. One man said his life had been transformed by a steroid inhaler I had encouraged him to start using, saying that he no longer felt breathless or worried about his asthma. The opportunity to get to know your patients and equip them with the tools and knowledge to improve their health and quality of life, has to be one of the best parts of practice nursing.

The pressures on GP surgeries were clear to see, as they are in many other parts of the NHS, however my time in general practice revealed just how crucial practice nurses are in supporting the everyday health needs of individuals. Practice nurses are highly-skilled practitioners in their own right who make a valuable contribution alongside GPs and the rest of the team in a surgery. Hopefully more GP surgeries will start taking on student nurses during their training so that more can gain experience in this often-overlooked area of nursing. Of course it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved my time in general practice and feel that student and newly-qualified nurses have so much to offer to this area.

We would love to hear your views on nursing in general practice – is it a career path you would consider as a newly-qualified nurse? Share your thoughts below!

Mysterious midwife? Vs obstetric nurse

So at the end of this week I will have finished my nine week community placement and I am absolutely gutted! 😩

Community to me IS midwifery- community encompasses the entire midwifery continuum. From booking to postpartum the community midwife is highly skilled in all areas of midwifery. For those who are unaware of what a community midwife does an average day from personal experience is a full antenatal clinic dealing with a wide range of medical, social issues, recognising safeguarding problems- including domestic violence, mental health problems, poverty amongst many many more.

Postnatal home visits, parent education, meetings with multidisciplinary agencies, phone calls from colleagues, anxious women, the hospital…. the list goes on!!!!!!!

One of the most beautiful amazing things we get to advocate in community is homebirth. Indeed research tells us that giving birth in the comfort of your own home with your family, partner, home comforts round you increases oxytocin- the hormone of love, childbirth, bonding and feeding which will therefore lead to positive outcomes. Of course some women are not suitable and we throughly risk assess all women in our care at booking to determine plan of care for delivery, providing the woman with the most upto date evidence based practice.

Of late, being an avid tweeter I have become increasingly alarmed by a small but growing consensus of people who believe midwifery has no place in contemporary society. These people believe it to be an ideology, a fantasy, a dream concept. I was very disturbed to read one post attacking midwives for our quest to promote normal birth as being for our own selfish gains. Believing that promotion of normal birth, home delivery to be nothing more than a ridiculous ideology that no longer features in a medicalised world.

This is the very reason why I feel midwifery is not just underrepresented but STILL in 2017 the average joes’ knowledge of childbirth and maternity is so poor that it is very easy to whip up so much negative hype- particularly on the back of terrible tragedies such as morecombe bay.

Why is childbirth seen as such a mysterious entity??? Why compared to most industrialised countries do we have abysmal breastfeeding rates?

Who do we blame for the increasing trend towards the medicalisation of child birth and the entire maternity care package?

Its somewhat of a wicked problem but all I know is the role of the midwife is to show care and compassion, to recognise deviations from the norm and REFER!!, promote normal pregnancy and labour. To be a midwife you need to care, care about the woman you are looking after, the baby in utero. Our strive for normality in childbirth proves how much we care! We want the very best outcome for the gorgeous ladies and babies we look after.

So please help spread the word-……..Midwifery is a vocation not a cult!!!!