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OPINION

Have skills, will nurse

Nursing Times blogger Verity Worthington looks forward to her first placement as a student nurse.

The time has nearly arrived. On Monday morning I am allowed to put on my uniform (which is actually the wrong size) and set foot (in sensible shoes) on to a ward with proper patients and the upside-down watch.

I would have blogged before, only I’ve been too exhausted. I’d like to stress that I’m not normally so sleep-centred, it’s the result of just-shy-of two months in London.

Where did October go?

Since my last blog I have successfully learnt: how to wash my hands, how to perform a simple aseptic non-touch dressing (without squirting saline all over the assessor), how to bruise my friend’s arm trying to get a good BP reading, and how to have lots of fun with hoists. I have also grappled with nursing science and had a very graphic dream about phagocytes and macrophages. My pink polka-dot folder is crammed with information. I touch it every night before bed in the hope that the science gets where it needs to by the powers of osmosis (or something like that). I even changed my Facebook name to Polly Peptide - my scientific alter-ego.

Tonight, crammed into the usual rush hour train and whilst getting up close and personal with strangers, I suddenly realised that I was a little nervous about embarking on my first placement. There was a moment of sheer panic when I wanted to scream for Valium and/or a brown paper bag. I have got used to silent, plastic limbs on which to practice (“are you OK Annie?”), and fake scenarios in the skills centre setting. The thought of a real patient actually responding is quite terrifying. And what about the “proper” nurses who must surely be dreading having some ward-virgin to look after? I’m naturally clumsy; I’ll drop something, I know I will.

My first placement ward specialises in colorectal surgery. I got a book out of the library with rather disturbing pictures in it. I opened it on the train and got some very odd looks. It’s perfectly reasonable for children to wail and for adults to have loud conversations on their Blackberry - but get out a book entitled Colorectal Diseases and you’re viewed with utter disdain.

As I waited for the microwave to heat up some lentil soup - drastic measures are needed if this uniform is going to look anywhere near decent - I contemplated why I wanted to be a nurse. I concluded that I really rather like people, and providing care at a time when they’re vulnerable and making their stay in hospital more enjoyable, are key factors. I’m also rather intrigued by this body of ours and all the wonderful things it does, however difficult they are to understand.

I’m still quite scared.

If you happen to work in London and see someone in an ill-fitting uniform skipping along a ward looking confused, it’s probably me.

Readers' comments (8)

  • debra fretwell

    I was so nervous about my first placement that i missed most of it, but when i finally made myself walk through the ward doors i discovered that everyone is really nice and most nurses accept that you will drop things and ask silly questions.

    I am now in my first placement of my second year and still make silly (and highly amusing) mistakes, for example was asked to take a patients BM the other day and went skipping in with a dynomap machine!

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  • After reading the article, I smiled to myself as it brought back memories! Well, no matter what post or what grade job you are undertaking, the first few days are nerve racking. But the good thing about nursing these days is you already have allocated mentors to report to before you even start, most of the time an informal visit may help and most placements have welcome pack with all the important details to help to get to know the area of practice. Nursing is all about your self-confidence and this as we all know come with time. We all make silly mistakes and we certainly learn from each other. After so many years of practice, I do not feel awkward to put my hand up and say I don't know or not sure about this procedure. Practice works alongside theory, so keep updated all the time!

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  • Janice Tinnion

    Can totally relate to this article as I too am experiencing my second week on my first placement - the nurses and other health care workers really do like to introduce you to nursing and take pleasure in teaching you along with helpful tips. I really feel its a pleasure to be allowed on the ward to be able to suppport people when they are most vunerable and I take pride when I put on my student nurse uniform and pray that my nervousness does not show, good luck to all fellow student nurses on their first placement.

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  • I had my first day on placement today, im on gastroenterology ward. I was very nervous this morning but they all made me feel realy welcome , i spent the day shadowing my mentor and felt like i was always getting in her way but i did enjoy it i am being given my own patient to look after 2morro so once again i am very nervous. Idid question my self at several points through the day as to why i am doing this or can i do this but i am going to stick at it ive come this far and i aint giving up !!

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  • Hi All,

    Im a second year student just finishing my 4th placement today and i will say it gets easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding as the placements go on. Ive just been on community and really feel this is what i want to do when i qualify. I received a card today from a patient who felt i had supported them which was lovely and makes me realise i have chosen the right career. keep going and you will enjoy and learn loads !!!!!!!!

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  • Hi Everyone.

    Im also a second year student currently undertaking my third placement which is intermediate care based in the community. I have always received very good feedback and reports from my mentors and other staff menbers in all other placements however this placement is a very different story. I am seen to be a "pest" and am refered to as i in this area. staff menbers will not associate with me and always show displeasure when i am assigned to them, its makin placement very hard. very few staff talk to me even though i really try to engage with them. i loved my first two placement the staff were fantastic and i learnt a lot, this placement is really making my doubt if i can do this or not. i wish they would remenber they had to learn too!!! :(

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  • I am jus about to qualify and experienced some dreadful placements but dont let the staff members put you off, its part of being a registered nurse to help train others nurses and they have no right to make you feel this way, if they treat you like this how do they treat their patients makes me wonder. Dont get put off some nurse feel very threatend by students in case their practice is questioned, but there are good mentors out their but its hit and miss.

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  • I am a second year student going to start my 2nd placement in June on A&E. I am scare stiff, if I get through this placement then I am good to go! my previous placements, I have met some lovely, supportive nurses who are eager to help you and make time to check to see how you doing, there are FEW that are very unapproachable lazy and expect you as a student nurse to know everything, the worse thing is went they give you a mentor who only work at nights, on the day shifts when you go to work with someone to learn something from they keep asking you who/where are your mentor? as if your mentor alone can teach you stuff, the patients are lovely, and you learn a lot, A&E here I come.

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