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Critical care nurse blog: Learning, teaching and the bits in between

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Critical care nurse Cassandra Leese on valuable lessons learned from being on both sides of the student-mentor relationship

As a student in the first days of a new placement, my goals evolved around not getting in the way, keeping a smile on my face and causing no harm.

Later, having sussed out the lay of the land, I would have an idea of which nurses I wanted to work with, and how to achieve my learning needs. As a qualified nurse and a 0new starter, it was with some alarm that, due to staff shortages, I found myself allocated my very own student.

I still hadn’t discovered the whereabouts of the mouthcare sponges in the store cupboard. How would I answer a student nurse's questions? To my relief, I had struck gold and been blessed with a former healthcare assistant who never got in the way, always had a smile on her face and happily appeared to read my mind whilst she worked alongside me, helping and never hindering.

Straight after handover, my patient’s blood pressure dropped at a rather alarming rate and I learned the importance of keeping a dead-pan face while frantically calculating the rate and dose of the noradrenaline infusion.

In the quieter moments, I found myself enjoying the easy routine of working alongside someone, and realised I miss the companionship that comes with the daily bed-making on the wards.

Throughout the entire shift, I became aware of just how difficult it can be to juggle the prioritisation of patient care and learning so crucial for a student's education, especially in those harried moments when you yourself are under pressure.

With that in mind, I’d like to say a wee thank-you to the nurses that got me through my training: Tracy, who understood how difficult it can be to manage study, work and a challenging home life; Corrine, who saw me through a long, quiet placement that just wasn’t for me; Jeff, whose quiet efficiency always amazed me; Gel and Natalie, whose friendship kept me smiling through some seriously hard shifts; and Claire, who gave me confidence.

How on earth did they make it look so easy?

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