Witnessing a distressing or traumatic event is something you expect when you start a nursing degree. I remember when we did our Basic Life Support for clinical skills many moons ago, and the teacher made a point of saying “when you need to use this”. I’ve been taught CPR before, and the instructors have always said if. Suddenly realising that you may be the only person to help in a traumatic situation is kind of terrifying.
I had my first experience a few weeks ago. I was on an optional training course at my placement, learning alongside students and Health Care Assistants. On our way to the next talk, one of the group members collapsed, had a fit and sustained a pretty nasty head injury. Fortunately, there was a qualified nurse on hand and soon enough there was loads of help arriving too (watching 3 doctors run towards you, stethoscopes at the ready, is like being on a TV show). I just stood and watched, and felt completely out of my depth. In theory, I knew exactly what to do. Call for help, avoid getting too close until he’d finished fitting, compress the head wound and maintain his airway- but I was terrified. I like to think that if I was the only person there who could help, I would have done those things on auto-pilot. But being an observer is different, especially since I’ve never seen anything like it.
Once the casualty was taken to A&E, the nurse who was teaching us took myself and another student nurse aside, and asked us if we were okay. She told us that she’d check on him later and update us tomorrow. I felt better after that, plus I still had adrenaline in my system and it was fantastic to see how everyone worked together. But as soon as I finished my shift and I called my dad, it started to feel more real. I suddenly felt really spaced out and didn’t want to go into detail with my friends once I got home. I couldn’t believe that it had actually happened. Luckily everyone was super understanding and gave me my space. My housemate even made me dinner!
Everyone listened wonderfully and were really supportive. The next day I was informed that he was doing better, and that was the best news.
The way that people dealt with that situation, and how immediately supportive people were gives me a lot of hope for the future. Nursing is a demanding career, and you will have bad days. But having colleagues, fellow students, lectures/advisers at uni, family, friends, partners, maybe even a dog to listen to you is amazing. Just keep it strictly confidential! Its these people who you make you strong enough to carry on and get to experience the good days too!