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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International #hellomynameis Day

July 23rd marks International #hellomynameis day. The #hellomynameis campaign was started by Dr Kate Granger MBE, a lady who set up a campaign in August 2013 using social media after receiving treatment in hospital for terminal cancer and realising that not all of the staff helping to support her introduced themselves. The campaign has raised awareness about the importance of healthcare professionals telling service users their name and role to help improve communication and increase the quality of patient care. The 23rd of July sadly marks the anniversary of Kate’s passing, though her husband Chris Pointon continues to travel the world delivering talks about Kate’s story and how we as healthcare professionals can improve people’s experiences of being cared for.

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Hello, my name is Abbie and I am a student mental health nurse. As I am a couple of weeks away from the end of my first year I have had lots of contact with service users on practice placements so I’ve been able to get a flavour of how much of a difference introductions can make from a professional perspective. From a personal perspective when I’ve been treated myself and accompanying loved ones to the hospital or the doctors I’ve witnessed professionals assessing not just the physical health but also the personal thoughts and feelings (mental health assessments are very thorough – see here) of people without telling them their name. Not doing so can put up a barrier to communication as the service user may feel awkward and uncomfortable with disclosing very sensitive information that they may previously have never shared with anybody before to a nameless stranger. A simple introduction can make the service user feel more valued and willing to talk about things like what they’ve been experiencing and what they wish to gain from treatment, which helps professionals deliver person-centred care that is tailored to each individual’s needs. Kate’s #hellomynameis campaign strives to improve patient experiences and aligns with the 6 Cs, values underpinning effective nursing practice that were set out in Compassion in Practice: Evidencing the Impact (2016).

6csSome University of Manchester students find themselves on placement within the Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, which is where a number of nurses dubbed ‘Kate Granger nurses’ are the first in the UK to have been appointed. Kate Granger nurses will wear special identifiable badges and aim to encourage staff members in the trust to demonstrate effective communication and uphold the standards of compassionate care that Kate and her husband Chris have spent years campaigning for.

Searching #hellomynameis online brings up a wealth of posts showing healthcare professionals and service users pledging their support for the campaign. Visit the campaign’s website to see what events Kate’s husband is attending and find out more about how you can get involved.

 

Hello from the other side…

We’re delighted to share this guest blog from Lizzie, a fourth year Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery student from the University of Queensland, Australia. Lizzie shares her incredible experience on exchange at the University of Manchester where she is completing her final nursing placement in A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary:

“Hello… Can you open your eyes please… What’s your name? Do you know where you are?

My name’s is Lizzie, I’m the student nurse looking after you. How can I help?”

Welcome to the adrenaline packed, electrifying, exhausting and incredibly humbling world of Accident and Emergency. I’m one of two UQ final year Bachelor of Nursing/ Midwifery student’s fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity to go on Exchange to the University of Manchester, and complete my final Nursing Undergraduate Placement in A+E at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

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I can’t believe in just under three weeks I’ll be finished my nursing degree! When I was little I always dreamt of being able to help people with my hands, my heart and my brain. I actually have come to feel so at home in the hospital – nursing has fit me like a glove. I love to learn, I’m a people person, but most of all I feel such a sense of satisfaction when I know I’ve made a difference. That’s why I’m excited, and proud to (almost) be a nurse.

I’ve been in the UK for 3 months now. Words can’t describe some of the things I have seen, how much I have grown personally and professionally, and how much I love it here – but I’ll give it my best.

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A+E is a never-ending puzzle. In comes a person with a list of symptoms, and (in the time constraints of the National Health Service’s 4-hour max wait times) you assess, stabilise, gain a history, conduct tests, perform interventions, monitor for the impact of these interventions, and then either refer them to a specialty or (hopefully) send them home. The true skill comes in managing many patients simultaneously – yet still treating, valuing and respecting each as an individual.

While every shift is an adventure – here are some of my highlights:

In A+E when there is a really critical person about to come in we get pre-alerted by a call from the Ambulance service to a “Red Phone”. The Nurse in charge takes the call, and then alerts the department over the loud-speaker – “Red Standby, Adult Major Trauma – ETA 5mins”.

One of these “Red Standbys” was a motorbike vs car head on collision, resulting in fractures to the patient’s femur, hip, wrist, and back… I got to look after and stabilize the patient, and follow them through to the Orthopedic Trauma Operating Theatre. The surgeons and theatre nurses were so kind, they not only talked me through the 3 operations, but they even let me scrub in so I could stand right next to the surgeon as he used metal rods, plates and pins to reconstruct the patient’s broken bones.

I have been actively involved in eight cardiac arrests (one was on my first day – but that’s another story). I’ve helped wheel a patient down the hallway while they were actively receiving CPR, and get them to the “Cath-Lab” where under X-ray guidance surgeons were able to guide a wire up the patient’s femoral artery, and use a stent to reopen the diseased blood vessels of the heart, and save his life.

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I have been blessed with a plethora of opportunities to learn – just over a week ago I traveled to Chorley to complete a simulation training day in “Out of Hospital Emergencies” with the Paramedics and Army Reserve. I’ve worked with an advanced practice nurse running a Community Clinic for Chronic Diseases, and have done home visits with a GP for the day – visiting some of the sickest home-bound patients.

Just yesterday I got to ride in an ambulance for the first time as we transferred a patient to a specialist hospital for neurosurgery. The patient was critical, so we traveled on “blue lights”. The paramedic crew were amazingly skilled, calm and good at balancing as we tore down the highway.

Manchester is a beautiful city to explore, and the rest of the UK is so close that I’ve being doing my best to see as much as can on my days off. So far I’ve day-tripped to the Lakes District, spent a weekend in Bath visiting the Roman baths and Stonehenge, seen some stunning castles in Wales, and travelled to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day!

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There are some exciting opportunities on the horizon – in my final week as a student nurse I’ll be attending a conference in London and on shift with the London Ambulance Service.

I have been so lucky to have worked as part of an incredibly supportive team and mentored by inspiring nurses and doctors. I won’t sugar coat it – I have seen some heartbreaking things (as is the nature of Accident and Emergency), but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve found my calling – caring for people when they are most vulnerable. Be that at the beginning (as a student midwife) or at the end (as a student nurse), it’s my privilege to love, support and provide dignity. Not as a healthcare professional, but as one human being caring for another human being.

I have learned there is never a situation in which a non-judgmental ear, a hand to hold, and kindness won’t help.

I’ve realised how precious every moment is.

Maintaining Friendships Old And New

I moved into halls for the first year of university despite already living in Manchester (well, Greater Manchester). I felt ready to gain some independence by ‘flying the nest’ and wanted to be within walking distance of university. When I lived with my mum before university I was only less than twenty miles away from the main campus so my friends from home who I used to live super close to aren’t incredibly far from my accommodation. The nursing course can get pretty hectic at times; more often than not all you want to do when you get back from placement is have a good kip!

Seeing my friends from home can be tricky to plan, to be honest, especially seeing as they have commitments like work and studying just like I do and it’s not just a ten minute journey involved in meeting up. I probably don’t tell them enough that I miss them, but I really do, and I really look forward to going home to meet up with my friends or having them stay over at my flat. Seeing my friends from home is so good for helping me stay grounded and true to my incredibly Mancunian roots and it reminds me of a big reason why I’m doing this course. I really hope I can make the people I care about and who care about me proud. If you don’t have the opportunity to meet up with your friends from home very often you’ll understand that the time you spend together is golden and you’ll appreciate it all the more. I’m so, so fortunate to have maintained friendships with such a brilliant bunch of people even after all these years.13151090_226356241076122_2131036156_nI enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made on my course too, as I think we have a good balance between chatting about nursing as well as unrelated things. We’ll talk about what skills we’ve been learning on placement and helping each other stay motivated when writing assignments by offering suggestions of resources to look at and just offering a pep talk sprinkled with the essence of ‘as a fellow student nurse, I really know how you feel’ then five minutes later we’ll be having a conversation about something like make-up or food. I’m so, so fortunate to have made such a brilliant bunch of friends at uni.

My advice to anybody studying on a course that keeps you super busy (ring any bells?) would be to appreciate and make time for your friends from home whilst still being open to making new friendships at uni. Your friends from home will be glad that you’re enjoying yourself and have support for when they can’t physically come to see you. Believe me, you’ll have no idea how you would have made it through uni without your friends – old and new.

 

PTSD and Midwifery- Don’t be ridiculous!

So I arrived home today after a  day of lectures to find the latest edition of the Midwives journal- The Royal College of Midwives (Winter edition 2016) . Having a read through I stumbled across an article regarding PTSD in the workplace.  ‘Facing the truth- PTSD and the profession’ (RCM 2016).

As I read the first paragraph my heart sank- thoughts of nightmares, comments of panic attacks, drinking to stop the thoughts, ascribed so eloquently, this sounded more like a scene from Full Metal Jacket.  As I read further it was revealed that the account was taken from a first year student midwife who had witnessed a horrendous birth at the end of her first year.  My heart sank further- statistics now show that 1 in 20 midwives will experience clinically significant post- traumatic stress disorder in the UK (Sheen et al 2015).

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PTSD affects anyone who has been exposed to trauma, as student midwives, registered midwives and practitioners we are all aware of the enormity of our profession- the severe lack of funding and TLC our precious NHS needs deserves. The RCM (2016a) report that the pressure on midwives has never been as great, longer working hours, no time for basic human necessities like having a wee! Not getting breaks, teamed with the fact that the birth rate is up almost one quarter in the last decade (Office of National Statistics 2014) ,compounding staff shortages and increasing multiple births, increase in maternal age and expectant mothers with pre-existing conditions means the strain and stress on the midwife has never been so prevalent.

The RCM  has recognised this and has adapted the ‘caring for you’ charter.  The aim is for organisations to acknowledge and sign the charter.  To improve the health, working conditions and quality of care of student midwives and midwives.

What I take from this article and what I think we all need to remember is that we must care for ourselves- A midwife who works in a positive, compassionate and supportive workplace is more likely to deliver positive, compassionate and supportive care!

SOOOOOOOOOOOO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND EACH OTHER!!!!  WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

The next chapter: Starting a new academic year

Last week I was going to post a blog about how I was feeling about starting third year but feeling terrified was my overriding feeling, and no one needs that kind of negativity, right?! I decided to wait until my first day back to write my feelings. So, here goes.

Firstly, I am exhausted! Woah, information overload! But not too exhausted to write to you lovely bunch so may be exaggerating a little! Today we were afforded an incredible opportunity to speak to trusts from all over the country and learn what they want from students applying for jobs. I felt anxious entering the room but left university feeling inspired. I feel like I can be anything I want to be! The trouble is, I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet. I know what my key interests are and know that I want to consolidate my learning in my first role as a qualified nurse but there isn’t currently a specialism screaming out at me. That’s okay though, isn’t it? Here I am referring to this as ‘trouble’. Pardon? This is a PRIVILEGE!

I received encouraging feedback today from representatives from different trusts, as well as from my colleagues. We’ve talked through the benefits of keeping a professional profile and throughout that discussion I flicked through some of my written feedback… Wow! I had forgotten about some of these kind and inspiring words.

I’ve complied a little list of pick-me-up reminders influenced by today’s activities and how I was feeling just last week. I thought I would share them and maybe you might take something from them too:

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  • Try to recognise whether I’m thinking rationally
  • Read over feedback and realise my potential
  • Focus on the positives. I have another year of study and a future of continued professional development – even my weaknesses can be positives!
  • Pat myself on the back. I have shown myself I can do so well already
  • Remind myself why I wanted to nurse and reignite those drivers
  • Get organised. Taking some time now for good planning will save a lot of time and worry in the long run. Time to get everything in that shiny new diary!
  • Take some time to digest ‘information overload’ – break it into more manageable pieces
  • Remember that it is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed – I’m not the only one feeling this way. I must remember to be good to myself and do something that is not nursing-related from time-to-time… Starting this weekend!

Now I approach this academic year feeling like I can achieve anything if I work hard enough. I’ve got this! And you have too!

Special thanks to today’s speakers, exhibitors and organisers for a motivating and informative day.

How to beat second year blues

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With second year around the corner, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive.

I’ve heard of the elusive ‘second year blues’ and worry that they might already be setting in. Despite having a year under our belt, the end goal somehow seems further away than at the beginning. We’re a year wiser, with a better idea of the challenges ahead…and let’s face it, we’re probably all a year poorer too. All things considered, its no wonder we might feel a bit down.

In the blissful ignorance of first year, I ignored second and third years warning us that we’d feel like this – turns out they were right! In a quest to ease my own anxieties, I’ve asked the for their tips for beating second year blues. Here’s what they said…

Get ahead

I know most of us have spend the last few weeks catching up on sleep, earning some pennies or reminding our friends that we still exist, but it’s worth having a look at what’s coming up. By second year, we’re expected to be independent learners, so its up to us to be proactive and find out what is in store for us over the next year. I’ve been putting it off, but it’s time to get organised, dig out the diary and log in to Blackboard…what’s my password again?

Set goals

Somehow I’ve managed to erase all memory of PAD submission day, which seems like ages ago now, but I remember that we were asked to set some goals for the year ahead. I’ve just had a look back at mine and they actually make some sense. Personal development plans can sometimes seem like a bit of a box-ticking exercise, but having a goal in mind for second year will give you something to focus on and makes the time fly by.

Avoid stress

When I started this course, I made a pact with myself not to leave everything to the last minute. In my last degree, I tactically worked out my words/per hour ratio (about 400), convincing myself that it was totally fine to leave a 3,000 word essay to 24 hours before the deadline. Yeah, I always got them in, but I was an absolute wreck. Believe me, its not worth the stress. This degree is full on enough as it is, so help yourself out by starting early.

Oh and this applies to overcommitting too – a lesson I’ve learnt the hard way. Figure out what is really important and realise that it’s ok to say ‘no’ sometimes. I still haven’t mastered it, but it’s a work in progress.

Talk it out

Chances are that most of us will feel down at some point over the year, but if ‘the blues’ hit, don’t bottle it up.  With hundreds of student nurses about, you’re bound to find a kind, listening ear and you might find that others are feeling the same way.

Also, don’t forget the PEFs are there to address any issues you might be having on placement – take a look at this blog to find out more about their role and how they can help.

Remember it’s not all about nursing

Maybe it’s just me, but does nursing have a way of taking over your life? While on placement, it feels like you think, breathe, dream nursing – sometimes you just need to switch off. Step away from the stethoscope and plan some totally non-nurse activities for the weekend. A break will do wonders.

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Keep calm and carry on nursing

Conquering second year and banishing those blues is about finding the right balance. This course can take over if we let it, but by staying organised and making time for the other things we love, we can actually be better nurses in the long run.

See you next week!