Second year student nurse, Natasha Bale, tells us about her first placement on a theatre ward …
Within minutes of starting my first placement the crash bell started to sound. Rushing towards the casualty my mentor indicated that I should start chest compressions, it was a tense few minutes watching the monitor, then relief flooded through me on hearing the ‘beep, beep’ on the monitor, as the patient came back to life ...
That is how I envisaged my first day on placement. In reality within the first few minutes of being on a care of the elderly ward I noticed a very distressed lady. I approached to ask if there was anything I could do to help but accidently stepped on her bare toes, making her even more distressed. After this I was convinced I was going to be the worst student nurse ever!
However after a couple of days of being on placement I started to feel more confident in my role as a student nurse and during talks with my mentor I realised that everyone makes mistakes, even if they are an original Florence Nightingale.
By making mistakes you learn from them. On my first day I learnt to make sure that every patient had socks or slippers. I’m not saying that mistakes won’t always have consequences, but that is why your mentor is there to support you, and as a student you won’t be put in the position where you can make a life threatening mistake.
The first placement is always the worst though, it is scary. Walking onto the ward on your first day, not knowing how things work, what you’re supposed to be doing. You will pick things up though and as you have more placements you’ll become more confident.
Everyone needs to start with the ‘basics’ to get a foundation to build their skills on
Do not be afraid to ask questions though, if you are uncertain about anything just ask. The staff around you won’t mind, they’ve been there before and they want to help.
Even ask the doctors if you want to know why they have prescribed a certain medication. It might take all your courage to walk up to them and ask but the doctors are actually really nice and they are not that scary (honestly). And you might even start to find that you enjoy talking to other professionals and learning from their experiences. Don’t be scared to get involved in things going on either. For example ask to watch a doctor examine a patient, or follow a specialist nurse around for the morning. Your mentor won’t mind as it is all part of being on placement and it is a great way to increase your own learning.
If you feel that you are not up to doing something though just say no, it’s much better to do things if you feel comfortable doing them.
I’m not saying your placement will be easy though, it can be tough. I know I struggled a lot at first to accept my role. I’m one of those people who wants to be doing everything at once, and some of my tasks seemed ‘basic’. But after discussions with my personal tutor and my parents I realised how important the most ‘basic’ things are, even if they don’t seem that important to you. Everyone needs to start with the ‘basics’ to get a foundation to build their skills on.
Nursing is an amazing profession so my advice is to stick in there, and don’t give up.
Natasha Bale is a second year student nurse studying adult nursing at Kings College London.