What to take on your first ever day of placement

Planning for placement can be tricky when going for the first time. Having had no healthcare experience prior to my first placement on an elderly medical ward, I had no idea what to expect or what I might need to bring with me for my first shift. Two years on, there are now staple items I never leave for placement without. Aside from the essential lip-balm and hand cream, here are my top tips on what to bring for your first shift:

Directions to placement google maps

Your first challenge of the day is to get to placement safely and on time, which could involve an early morning trek across Manchester. If you’re familiar with Manchester, or have had a test run, this should be a doddle, but if not, it’s a good idea to make sure you know the address of your placement as well as making a note of the bus times or directions – just to avoid a panicked Google search at 6am on your first day. I’d also make a note of the phone number of your placement, just in case you are delayed for any reason and need to let them know. Our Student Nurse Survival Pack has some helpful advice on planning your journey.

Pens, LOADS of pens! 

pexels-photo-261591.jpegAs you soon discover, pens are like precious gold-dust in the NHS. Everyone from nurses to patients will ask to borrow your pens and it’ll be a miracle if you ever see them again. Definitely don’t take your favourite fountain pen or any expensive stationary because it won’t hang around for long. My suggestion is to buy a big stash of cheap pens with the clicky tops that you can keep in your bag, so even if all yours go walkies, you’ll have a back-up. Alternatively, as every student or registered nurse knows, if you ever see free pens on offer TAKE AS MANY AS YOU CAN! They should always be black ink though, as it’s the only colour we can use to document in patient notes. I also chuck a highlighter or two into my pocket as I find this handy for highlighting key details on the handover sheet.

A pocket-sized notebook

A lovely friend who is already a registered nurse gave me this tip before my first placement: “make sure you take a notebook”. It is one of the best practical tips I’ve had as a student and I follow it to this day. So many things will crop up during a shift that you might want to look-up when you get home or remember, so it’s really handy having a notebook there to quickly jot down your thoughts to remind you later. I’ve also used mine to write reflections on the bus home or simply note down a set of observations or phone message if my handover sheet is covered in writing. I bought pack of small notepads and take a fresh one for each placement and they have been a godsend.

Fob watchfob watch

I’m sure you’re all sorted with this one already – the fob watch is one of the iconic pieces of nursing uniform – you’ll feel like a proper nurse when you pin it on for the first time! As well as making you look like a nurse, it is also an invaluable piece of nursing equipment that helps you measure vital signs like pulse and respiration rate as well as keep track of the time, a very important skill to master as you progress through your training. Whether you have an expensive fob watch given to you by friends and family or a freebie from the nursing fair, it doesn’t matter too much – you will use this every single shift and feel lost without it on days you might forget it. You’ll know you’ve starting to assimilate to the nursing life when you go to check your fob watch instead of wrist to tell the time outside of placement!

A diary

pexels-photo-733857.jpegA piece of advice from a chronically disorganised person approaching her thirtieth year on this planet: invest in a diary. Preferably in January.  As you may have already learnt, there is so much to juggle on a nursing degree – uni, assignment deadlines, exams, placement, family commitments, paid work, a social life (god forbid!) – meaning that things can come unstuck pretty fast without a bit of organisation. In first year it soon became clear that my usual ‘keep-things-in-my-head-and-pray-nothing-clashes’ approach was not going to work. A simple diary saved my sanity and probably a few friends who were sick of me double booking. The more tech-savvy among you will have this covered with phone calendars etc but I find a good old-fashioned hardback diary works best – I always take this with me to placement so I can plan my ‘off-duty‘ (nursing word for rota) with my mentor and spokes in advance, making sure this fits around uni and other commitments.

FOODpacked lunch

As someone who thinks about food almost all day, I can not emphasise this enough – take a packed lunch with you to placement! Breaks are often short (typically 30 minutes) and the last thing you want to do is run across a large hospital or find a nearby shop to buy an overpriced lunch which you have to wolf down on the way back. You’ll want to spend as much as your break as possible relaxing (ideally sitting down) and recharging for the next part of your shift, so it’s a good idea to bring something with you like a sandwich, last night’s leftovers or even a can of soup so that it’s one less thing to worry about. Most placement areas will have access to a microwave so you’ll be able to heat up something up, though this may be trickier for anyone on district/community placements where you might be out and about. It took me a good few months to get into the habit of packing my lunch, but it has saved me loads of money and hassle meaning I can now fully enjoy my breaks. Invest in a sturdy lunch box and large re-usable water bottle – it’s so easy to get dehydrated when you’re running around on a hot ward, but having a bottle there reminds you to drink. Our blog on healthy eating also has some good tips.

Identification and clinical skills training certificates

Some placements require you to bring along some kind of identification, like your student card, for your first shift. I had a placement in sexual health, for example, that needed to see my student ID on my first day as part of their confidentiality policy – while you might need it for other placements in order to be given a Trust ID badge. Your university name badge is also essential and will help staff and patients get to know you and remember your name – they’ll have no excuse for calling you ‘the student’! Our induction checks on PARE also require our mentor to see evidence of mandatory training like basic life support that you will have done in clinical skills, so it is a good idea to either bring these along or take pictures of them to show your mentor so that they can sign this off.

What NOT to take

As well as thinking about what to take on your first day, it’s also helpful to know what not to bring. The main thing here is any valuables like a purse or laptop. Some placement areas might be able to offer you a spare locker but many won’t and I’ve sadly heard of student nurses whose valuables have been stolen from communal changing/break rooms which can sometimes be left unlocked. While this is really rare, I wouldn’t take the risk – I leave my purse or any other valuables at home and just bring my bank card and a small amount of cash, which I keep with me in the top pocket of my uniform – just remember to take it out when you get home, so it doesn’t go in the wash! If you need to bring a tablet with you for completing your OnlinePARE for example, just let your mentor know and I’m sure they’ll be able to find a secure place to lock it away.

So there’s a run down of my top items to take on your first day of placement. Of course, as you progress through your training you’ll find that other items become handy in different placement areas – like alcohol gel in the community, a pen torch in A&E, a pair of blunt-ended scissors on wards or a stethoscope for wards that measure manual blood pressure – but these key items will help you start off on the right foot. With a little bit of pre-planning you can arrive at placement feeling totally prepared and ready to nurse – good luck!

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Be Resilient, Stay Brilliant

Student nursing takes many different skills: patience, compassion, dedication, the ability to plaster a smile on your face for 12 hours even when you’re exhausted, and more. But there is one skill I never thought would be so useful; resilience!

Resilience is when you’ve made a simple mistake and you can feel the embarrassment creeping up, but you carry on caring and learning. It’s what makes you keep going when someone doubts your ability. It is what you use to take in constructive (but sometimes not!) criticism on an essay, a presentation or an act of care. Resilience is the ability to bounce back!

I didn’t realize how important resilience was until I was having an incredibly busy day on my last placement on an acute medical ward. Myself and my mentor had ended up with a few very poorly patients, an astonishing amount of paperwork, delayed transport for a patient and some awkward available beds mix ups. To help out, I offered to call a unit an explain that patient they were transferring to us needed to be delayed slightly, due to late transport. I was greeted with what I describe as understandable anger and frustration. I spoke as calmly as possible, explaining that we were sorting the situation and that the patient would not be delayed much longer. The nurse I spoke to continued to berate me on the phone, and eventually hung up.

Luckily, within 10 minutes, we had managed to sort the entire situation out. No more angry phone calls for the day! I spoke to my mentor about what had happened, and she reassured me that it was just a tough situation and not to take it to heart. I still get slightly annoyed when I think back, but I have to remind myself that we are all just looking out for our patients. Sometimes that comes across in different ways! I think if I was a qualified nurse, I would have had a better understanding of how to deal with the situation. But I know for sure that I will not forget this phone call.

Remember; if you have experienced a situation like mine, please talk to someone about it! Whether it is your mentor, a fellow student, the PEF, your AA, friend, family dog etc. Difficult situations should be discussed, and you are allowed to vent. I can highly recommend writing a reflection about it!

Have you had any moments of resilience? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook/Twitter. Or, if you’re feeling creative, write us a blog post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Eating-YES you can!

Since starting Nursing I feel I have been unintentionally gaining unwanted weight and with each academic year I promise myself this year will be different. And we all know how New Year resolutions turns out (sad, but true). I use to be great at meal prepping and avoiding junk food. After my night shifts and the ridiculous long hours I started to feel tired, stressed and would skip meals or ate whatever was easiest at the time (most of the time it was junk food *sigh*). I stopped cooking (which I love to do), I did not stick to my usual routine of eating (big breakfast, medium lunch and smaller dinner), instead I would skip all meals and eat one large meal when I got home at 9PM (yes, very unhealthy eating at that time) and that meal could sometimes be just toast (once i ate 8 pieces of toast within a 24 hour period *ashamed*). Then in the morning I would be so HANGRY (hungry & angry) because I want to eat but don’t have time to eat. At times I would come home from a long day, knowing I have a 04:30am start the next day I would make a decision: to eat, to shower, to sleep? and most of the time it was to sleep.

But this September I decided enough was enough and did something about it. These are my five tips to eating healthy/better and working a 12 hour shift (night shifts are the worst for eating properly- its so easy to eat nonsense, especially when staff bring in quick food to munch on).

#1 MAKE LUNCH: During first year I use to cook lovely delicious healthy meals and bring in nutritious snacks and occasionally a cheeky chocolate bar. I bought a new lunch box, wrote out a meal plan for the week and stuck to it. (most of my time is spent thinking about what to eat). Plus I get to use my half hour (if that) to actually sit and eat properly rather then going to a shop to get a sandwich (that I do not want) and eat quickly in ten minutes.

#2 ALWAYS MAKE LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE: you will never wake up early (earlier rather) to make your lunch. I have lied to my self more than I can count, I’d rather sleep then eat (as we have already established :-p). You are always to tired before work to cook anyway. I suppose for night shifts it is a little easier.

#3 DRINK WATER: I keep a 1 litre of water with me all the time. I am continuously drinking. This not only keeps you hydrated but also stops you from snacking on biscuits/chocolates.  To be honest, water is my answer to everything! It reduces my headaches, my cravings and keeps me focused. Not to mention how great water is for your skin. It keeps you less stressed through the day as you are hydrated and makes you feel full (so you don’t get HANGRY).

#4  NEVER SKIP MEALS: As I have mentioned I have a huge tendency to do that. It is easy to skip meals when you are in a busy working environment. Make time to eat, you owe that to yourself. If you can not got for a lunch break, keep fruits, granola bars with you and munch on them as you write your nursing notes. If you skip meals, you go home hungry and feel you can eat your whole fridge.

#5 AVOID JUNK: Easier said than done, I know. But if you remove junk from your household and do not buy them when you are out then you will avoid the excess sugar and fat. I’ve started to buy lots of fresh fruit and veg, from continuously eating such food you can change your cravings and habits. I really believe that the more your eat healthy the more your body wants healthy food. Once I was addicted to carrots and hummus, I would keep a bag of carrot sticks and a pot of hummus with me all the time because I craved it.

Bottom line. You can eat healthy whilst being a nurse. Bring healthy snacks with you to munch throughout the day. Try to have your lunch halfway through your shift (I know that can be difficult). When patients give the staff chocolates to say thank you, be careful with your hand because it will have a mind of its own and you will end up eating one to many! I truly believe that a healthy nurse is an efficient nurse, it will allow you to be always on your ‘A game’ and you will feel great!

Please share any tips you have to eating better on a 12 hour shift.

 

Tips for first year Student Midwives….

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT!!! YOU ARE STUDENT MIDWIVES!

How are you all finding semester 1? Terrifying? Is life sciences sucking the life out of you? Have some lectures left you running for the hills crying into your pints at the SU? Have you actually got over the shock of being a student midwife yet and now the reality of being a student midwife is kicking in?

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Ok…so as a second year the horrors of that first semester are still fresh enough in my mind that I get goosebumps at the thought of how I felt this time last year but I am also sat here having survived so feel it may be a good idea to share how I got through it! I will add that maybe not everyone finds this first semester as a student midwife hard but I did and a lot of my cohort did so here are some tips that got me through to semester 2 in one piece and nearly sane!

  1. Don’t look too far aheadby this I do not mean do not plan…planning is GOOD (see point 2!) but do not look at your timetable for 4 weeks time and think ‘how can I possibly manage to do ALL THAT WORK?” . Think about what you need to do today and what you need ready for tomorrow. Have an awareness of assignments whilst you are reading stuff but don’t be consumed by it! One day at a time…your knowledge is building up one brick at a time so if you look too far ahead you will overwhelm yourself and you cannot possibly know what you do not know so just be with what you need to do now, today.
  2. PLAN –  you need to be organised! USE the time allocated to you for Guided independent study and independent study. If the timetable says 3 hours do 3 hours! It sounds silly but this will help you ensure you are doing the right level of work. I have a list of studying to do which I add to and cross things off as necessary! It helps me sleep at night not worrying I may be missing something i need to be doing!images-1
  3. Do not over think it (at this stage!)  At the moment you are bombarded with information and, lets face it, you’ve been accepted onto a highly competitive midwifery degree because you LOVE it and want to read and research EVERYTHING around it but you WON’T HAVE TIME! This was a downfall for me! More than once drafts would be returned to me as ‘too complicated’, ‘too complex’ etc because I didn’t want to just read and write about a nice straightforward pregnancy I wanted to research why a perfectly straightforward pregnancy and labour could result in a retained placenta WHY??? Goddamn it!!!! This is not the time for that level of ‘reading around the subject’-read what you have been told to read at this stage as you will have little time to read around the subjects if you want to get through the massive amount of material you need to get through and your FIRST YEAR is focusing on normality do not confuse yourselves by needing to know about the complex stuff….yet! Imagine your knowledge is being built and you need to embed the foundations nice and solidly before branching out further into the more complex stuff!
  4. Use everybody who offers support we are not just being nice we want to help you! Your AA, your PASS leaders, your mentors, midwives on your placement, your lecturers, your PEFs, your ward managers, your PEERS! They are all there as support – support each other! Knowing you are not alone in the struggle is such a bonding experience! Tell people if you are finding something so hard you are questioning your decision to train as a midwife! Take time to check out within yourself how you are feeling and reach out when you are struggling-learning to reflect on your experiences is important on  a lot of levels so the sooner you start the better!
  5. Be kind….to yourselves and others– please be kind to yourselves! Give yourself time off; spend time with your family and friends! Do non-midwifery related stuff! It is EASY to be consumed by this degree but self care is fundamental to resilience and good health so start as you mean to go on! Sleep well, eat well and invest in ‘you’ time it will benefit everybody around you especially you! Look at your cohort-are some people struggling? Reach out to them-this is not a competition we really can ALL succeed but its much nicer if we all help each other along rather than revel when people fall! We are training in a compassionate profession this starts with how we treat each other!
  6. Attend revision lectures – that is it really! Attend them-they are important!
  7. Use social media sparingly– so you did well and got 110% on your first assignment….AMAZING!!! Well done! Please consider why you would put this on Facebook! It’s super you’ve done well and you should be proud of yourself but tell your folks, tell your friends, shout it from the rooftop but jusocial-medast ask yourself why you are sharing that somewhere so publicly when you know others in your cohort are going to read it and maybe might not have managed to get such a great result! We all have areas we are strong in and areas we are not so strong in-support each other and celebrate successes but be mindful of how your fabulous result may make somebody feel who only managed 35% this time.
  8. Enjoy it! You will be frantic at times and wonder how you are ever going to get through your life sciences exam as well as hand in your poster assignment draft, get that presentation ready, complete your placement documentation plus have any kind of extra curricular life! But enjoy being a first year student midwife! Take time to stand on the 4th floor of uni place looking down Oxford Road at the buildings and the hustle & bustle and remind yourself you are a student at MANCHESTER a highly prestigious university! Go to the library and breathe in the smell of ALL THOSE BOOKS embracing how far you have already come and that YOU GOT CHOSEN! Do not be so consumed by panic that you lose sight of why you want to be a midwife. Oh….and learn to scan read! An essential skill!!!