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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My ‘lollipop moment’

Have you ever had your life changed, even just a little bit, by a total stranger?

Several months ago, my boyfriend showed me a TED Talk called Everyday Leadership. The premise of this talk is about ‘lollipop moments’, when a stranger makes a difference to your life. The speaker, Drew Dudley, was lucky enough to be told by the person he helped, and how much of a difference he made to her life. The really interesting point that Drew also makes is how we often don’t realize that we make these differences to people!

I had my ‘lollipop moment’ today, at the Freshers fair whilst I was working at a stall. A woman approached the stall with her friend, and recognized me immediately. She told me that I had talked to her before her nursing interview this year, and helped her feel a little bit less nervous. I didn’t remember this moment until she reminded me!

I think the concept of ‘lollipop moments’ applies to nursing really well. Although it may sometimes feel as though we are endlessly doing paperwork and working in areas horrendously understaffed, we are making a difference. Somewhere in the world, you have changed somebody’s life for the better, just by doing what you love!

Have you ever had a lollipop moment, or did someone change your life for the better? Let us know by commenting, tweeting us or write your own blog post and submit it to enhancingplacement@gmail.com

Nursing behind bars: Q&A with student nurse, Laura, who shares her prison placement experience

One of the incredible things about nursing is that it is one of the few professions that reaches people in every part of society. This includes prisons which could arguably be considered one of the most challenging environments in which to nurse. Earlier this year student nurse Laura Golightly (pictured) was among a handful of student nurses to be placed at a prison in Manchester. We are delighted to share this Q&A with Laura who describes her experience working alongside the prison nursing team, including the daily challenges but also the huge variety of nursing skills and confidence she gained from this rewarding placement.Laura pic

What originally drew you to applying for a placement in a prison?

I have always had a fascination with prisons since growing up and watching compelling documentaries made by influential documentary makers like Louis Theroux. For many people, and certainly for me, this sub-section of society living their life behind bars in massive secure institutions was really intriguing and something that I felt I could have no real concept of. The reality of life within prison is often something that’s kept very private from the general public, including the mental and physical health problems faced by inmates and the concept of institutionalisation, this threw up some really interesting and thought provoking societal questions about the effectiveness of the prison system as a whole which I really wanted to explore, not only as a health professional, but on a human level also. It had really been a desire of mine to work within a prison, safe guarding very vulnerable members of society, before the opportunity even arose so when I saw the email detailing the placement, I knew I would do everything in my power to secure it.

How did you feel when you arrived for your first day?

I was completely overwhelmed when I first stepped foot into the prison for my first day. Starting a new student placement can be intimidating at the best of times, I’m often left feeling anxious about meeting the staff, performing up to standard, not knowing enough and many of those little worries that seem to occupy your head before starting a new placement. There is certainly plenty to consider turning up on your first day so then to be turning up to a huge Victorian building which seems to dwarf even such vast city centre buildings surrounding it, complete with barbed wire running around the parameter and prison staff greeting you with a sharp eye and a pat-down, well it certainly puts things into perspective. The first day my mentor took me into the grounds and gave me the grand tour, we discussed what general day to day life is working within the prison and he soon made me feel at ease. I have to say though, it did come as a bit of a surprise when we discussed this over a coffee and he pointed out to me that the staff serving us in the café were actually inmates.

What was your daily routine like on placement? Describe an average day.

There was no real average day within the prison, this was one factors I particularly enjoyed about the placement! There are three main areas to work and these are on reception, on the health care unit and on inpatients. The role is vastly different on all three which was fantastic for bringing variety to the role as nurses were rotated throughout the week. On reception we would take care of the medications for all inmates leaving for court or being transferred out and we would medically ‘fit’ them for departure, we would then also take care of all inmates being transferred in, this was the really interesting part. We would conduct an assessment with the patient discussing their past medical history, recording observations, their general contact details, the reason they have come to prison, their mental health, health promotion advice and some screening tools, this was their first point of contact with the medical team so there is usually a fair amount to cover and they would have a follow up within the first 72 hours to once again check in on them and discuss anything they may need to add since their first assessment. A day on the health care unit would consist of giving the meds for a specified wing (which could often take hours with the cocktail of meds some inmates are on) and then reporting back to the health care unit to complete the clinics for the day. There was an afternoon clinic and a morning clinic within this prison and these would often be clinically very similar to a GP surgery clinic. There would be many different health professionals running specialist clinics also such as psychiatric, counselling, smoking cessation, sexual health, BBV, dentistry, optometry and more, just as you’d expect to see in the community. The inpatient unit was quite different all together as these were the extremely vulnerable patients, it mainly consisted of mental health nurses and prison officers who were specialised to deal with the kind of inmate that presented in the unit. It was nothing like what I could have imagined, with huge solid metal doors, no windows, rooms without anything at all inside, no real equipment and it seemed to be constantly deafening with lots of screams and shouts from inmates. On top of all this there was the emergency response radio one nurse would have responsibility for, this would be used to request emergency medical first response. While I was on placement I attended these calls for a range of incidents such as fights, overdoses, inmates high on illicit drugs, cardiac and respiratory disturbances and mental health crises.

What kind of clinical skills were you able to practice with the prison nursing team?

The clinics were fantastic for practicing clinical skills, with lots of hands on experience being available. ECGs, dressings, injections, wound closure, suture removal and observations were all common practice. Every morning and afternoon there was the opportunity to complete the medications round also and due to the vast opportunity for spokes within the prison I also managed to complete a mental health assessment, smoking cessation assessment and observe the work of the specialist drug and alcohol team.

What do you think are the most challenging aspects of prison nursing?

The most challenging aspect of nursing within the prison for me was the prison regime itself. Many individuals within the prison have very low wellbeing for obvious reasons. To prison staff they are inmates, however to medical staff they are patients, this creates a very tricky dynamic when it comes to dealing with their needs. Being unable to encourage patients with activities to promote wellbeing was very difficult, I struggled to encourage patients to be active when they are only entitled to one hour in the yard a day and they are kept locked up in their cell for such prolonged periods of time. I struggled to encourage patients to connect with loved ones when they are only allowed a certain amount of visitation and many of the relationships the prisoners keep are strained due to their absence from home. I struggled to encourage learning when often classes are full up with long waiting lists and staffing levels inappropriate for the level security needed. The problem with prisons is that they aren’t therapeutic environments and this creates a vicious cycle that many vulnerable people fall victim to.

What did you enjoy most about your placement in a prison?

I can honestly say I enjoyed everything about the placement. The staff were all fantastic, great fun, welcoming and always happy to teach, my student colleague on placement with me was lovely, the prisoners were generally very polite and interesting to talk to. Being exposed to all the different healthcare sectors and how they are applicable to the prison community, highlighting the different demands of this small sub-section of the outside population was fascinating and I learnt how to deal with a patient who’s needs were often vastly different than what I was exposed to in my general training so it was fantastic to gain this different and unique experience.

What I really want to get across to nurses that would potentially consider a career within the prison service is that it really is a fantastic and unique experience. Often patients have very complex needs and this can lead to a really exciting and challenging working environment which really allows you to make a difference for your patients. Many of my friends and family thought I was stupid for wanting a placement they perceived as so ‘dangerous’, I really want to communicate how safe I felt in there. The prison officers are very well trained and experienced and look after the safety of the medical staff absolutely superbly. Do not be discouraged by fears of safety as officers are always on hand to assist you and will never leave you alone with a prisoner. Security measures in there are top priority for prison management and you’d never be left to work in an unsafe environment. If you have a keen interest in working with challenging individuals and nursing in a holistic and non-judgmental manner with a particular interest in mental health then the prison environment could be just right for you.

Thank you, Laura! It is fascinating and valuable to hear from other student nurses and midwives working in all kinds of different placement areas. If you have an placement experience or reflection that you would like to share on our blog, please do get in touch! Find us on Facebook @UoMPlacementProject or email studentnurseplacementproject@gmail.com.

Handling complaints: what I never learnt as a waitress

I have never been good at receiving complaints. Before I started my nursing degree, I worked as a waitress for 5 years. It was not uncommon to deal with customer complaints on a daily basis, and I would always just say “I’m really sorry about that. I’ll speak to my manager” which was always a fail safe. 98% of the time, the customer didn’t want to speak to me anyway!

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Accurate picture of me listening to customer complaints

But that changed when I started my nursing. Suddenly, whilst trying to make small talk with patients, I was being confronted with complaints about care they had received in the past or at that very moment. I couldn’t get away with my usual spiel because care complaints are more specific, more personal. You have to say something, and sorry doesn’t quite cut it.

I remember, very vividly, the first time I saw a nurse deal with a complaint efficiently. The patient in question was raising her concerns about the referral system for district nurse visits after a stay in hospital. Her care had been delayed due to this. The nurse I was working with listened to her very carefully, occasionally (when appropriate) asked for more detail and did not seem flustered at all. She then thanked the patient, said she would follow this up but urged her to voice her complaint at PALS.

PALS stands for Patient Advice and Liaison Service. It is confidential, and designed to provide support for patients, relatives and carers.

I was amazed at how calmly the whole situation went. Although the patient was upset initially, she was clearly at ease by the end of the visit, and I felt it was due to her being able to voice her opinion. And she was actively encouraged to talk about her concerns as Image result for complaintsit helps the NHS grow as an organisation! And it inspired me!

Since this event, I feel as though I have been inundated with patient complaints. Sometimes I feel as if there is a secret sign on my head that says please voice your thoughts at me!. I have now had endless practice at being calm and friendly, with some situations leading to me having to be a little firm (I will not be shouted at). I find that listening a lot, speaking barely at all, seems to work. Asking them to expand, answering questions when needed, and most importantly not denying their claims. It is extremely important, I think, to acknowledge that not every care interaction is perfect or goes to plan. We must embrace feedback, negative or not! Whether it comes from a staff member, a patient or a relative; complaints should be listened to!

Always speak to your mentor or a staff member about a patient’s complaints. 

The joy of community nursing

Community is often painted as marmite- you either love it or you hate it. But is that strictly true? Surely there is something about every placement that can be enjoyable, and not so enjoyable!  I will first admit that my heart lies in community. I knew within the first few days of my placement in first year that I wanted to work in the community. So I thought I’d make a little list about why it’s just so amazing. 

You have to expect the unexpected! You aren’t in the relatively controlled environment of the hospital, you’re in a patient’s home/room. Anything can happen, even trying to stop the pet dog from jumping on the bed during catheterisation!

It really is community based nursing. No matter what area you work in, you’ll know the people, their attitudes and the roads like the back of your hand. It’s really refreshing to be moving around constantly instead of endlessly walking around a ward or clinic.

Improvisation is key! Can’t find the correct wound dressing? Come across a new skin tear? Can’t access the patient’s house? Better make it up! I’ve seen some amazingly ingenious solutions which I’ve then stored in case I ever come across it again. It’s one of the best ways of learning!

Community nurses can be a lifeline. Many patients you will visit in the community are elderly, some of which are very isolated from society due to mobility issues, lack of family or the fact that they live in rural locations. Often, community nurses are the only people they interact with in the day, and they appreciate their presence immensely!

The patient-nurse relationship is very different! As soon as you enter someone’s home, you are entering their territory and you follow their rules. I feel that this allows patients to have a larger role in care decision-making. It is what holistic nursing is all about.

Community nursing is not for everyone, but never underestimate it’s ability to build up your skills!

If you’ve had a community placement, and you’re feeling creative, why not write us a blog post? Simply send us an email at enhancingplacement@gmail.com. We always welcome new content!

Antenatal parent education- does it have a place in modern society?

ctmI adore parentcraft, why? Because I adore discussing the subject I love so very much. I love talking to women, their partners, their families about something which to them is unknown and very very scary.

Parentcraft is a funny thing! Some midwives adore it others can’t think of anything worse than “preaching” in front of a group of perspective parents.

It saddens me the lack of funding and hours the NHS invests into parent education. Year after year, maternity reports publish how important antenatal education is in facilitating positive mother and baby outcomes.  How discussing stages of labour, mode of delivery, pain relief, postnatal care and infant feeding to name a few are absolutely vital to achieving positive outcomes.

This week I was lucky enough to look after a lovely couple I had met in my parent craft classes.  Half way through her labour she told me how much she loved parentcraft and how informative it had been!! She recited aspects of the sessions I had spoken about including the stages of labour and the amazing oxytonic affects produced by feeling supported, loved in labour! I felt such a sense of achievement that the sessions had really helped the couple and I went on to deliver their beautiful baby girl!!!

I believe there is a place in today’s society for parent education but midwives must evolve and adapt in order to engage the audience. Nowadays information we all need is just a click away on an app or a search engine. But nothing beats a positive engaging face to face session.

I certainly won’t be shying away!!! I can not wait to get stuck into antenatal education when I qualify!! Spreading the word of the wonderful physiology of pregnancy, childbirth, infant feeding and much much more!!!!

 

 

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!!!!