Trauma Talk

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.

trauma call

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!

jades dinner

I’m very lucky to live with someone who can make amazing food. 

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!

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We need to talk

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Approaching the end of my first placement, I’m finally feeling a bit less like a headless chicken. I know my way around a bed bath, I’m comfortable with a host of bodily fluids and have mastered the art of the perfectly positioned bedpan. I understand the rhythm of the ward and I’m more familiar with the paperwork and observations…well, I’m getting there.

However, what still keeps me up at night is that difficult question I didn’t answer well or that awkward moment of verbal diarrhoea when I should have just SHUT UP and listened.

We all know communication is important – but a recent report from Marie Curie explains that good communication is more than a ‘soft skill’, a ‘nice-to-have’ bonus once we’ve taken care of everything else. It says that good communication is an integral part of a person’s care and can have a direct impact on their recovery – whether it’s making sure a patient understands why they must take their medication, involving a patient in a decision or simply giving someone reassurance to ease anxieties.

On my ward I’ve noticed that as student nurses, we can play a special and unique role. Patients seem happier stopping us and asking questions or confiding their concerns and we can enjoy the privilege of a bit more time to stop and talk. Those few extra moments aren’t idle chat, they’re a key part of that patient’s treatment. They help them feel cared for, more human, especially when staying in hospital for long periods, away from everything familiar.

I found our recent communication module really valuable, though it could be easy to question why we need to be taught communication – we all know how to communicate, right? Marie Curie’s report argues that communication can and must be taught if we are to improve care – my time in practice so far has taught me that communication is probably the most important skill I’m going to develop.

Words stick, probably more than actions, so I want to be equally confident in communicating with patients as I hope to be in dealing with their physical needs.

It’s a work in progress and I know it’ll take time to develop my own, natural style of communicating with patients – I still find myself trotting out cliches or borrowing phrases from other staff that I think worked well. Recently I’ve been looking for opportunities to simply sit and talk to patients, and it’s paying off – I feel a little bit more confident after every shift. I’ve realised that patients don’t expect us to have all the answers; often, it’s just being there that counts.