I love what I do, I love being a student nurse and being challenged by university and my placement to broaden my learning and knowledge.
However find myself obliged to defend student nurses after reading How student nurses’ supernumerary status affects the way they think about nursing, Are student nurses too posh to wash? and Clearing up poo will not help me learn on nursingtimes.net this week.
At RCN Congress Gordon Brown said nursing is a “profession where you work with your head, heart and hands at the same time”. I agree, nursing is a profession that is demanding and rewarding. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. We may be students, but we do work hard and we are continually challenged on every level to use our heads, hearts and hands.
As a student nurse, I have never, ever refused to participate in basic nursing care. I have each and every time thrown myself into the role of student and willingly learnt about bedside care from HCAs and staff nurses.
I was lucky enough to have a fabulous mentor on my very first placement. She had only been qualified about 18 months ago but she made sure I understood how important the basics were. Every day she came and did the care round with me and ensured I understood the importance of dignity, respect, examining the patient, communicating, and making sure the patient was comfortable.
The lessons she taught me will stay with me forever. Yes, while at university we had a skills session on performing a bed bath. Performing bedside care on a dummy is vastly different to performing it on a real life human being. No matter how hard university tries – it can’t simulate the real life experiences that you get as a student on the wards.
But university can help you learn the reasons for what you do; it’s up to the individual to apply the theory. University equip us with the knowledge we need to become nurses, but practice comes only with experience. The universities give us the text books to read and the essays to write in the hope that we will broaden our knowledge and be educated practitioners.
“I don’t believe student nurses are too ‘posh to wash’, and I do believe we should know the basics”
But writing a good essay does not a good nurse make.
Being supernumerary means we are additional to the clinical workforce, and we undertake placements in clinical areas to learn; we are not counted as members of staff. I have never found being supernumerary detrimental to my status as a student. Being supernumerary has allowed me the flexibility to muck in as HCA, to do the drugs round with the qualified staff, to be able to go and watch procedures or attend appointments with patients. When I’m qualified I won’t have this flexibility, so I like to grab every learning opportunity that I can.
Back to basics
As for student nurses refusing to perform basic care? Perhaps this has been misconstrued.
When we go on placement we have paperwork to complete, this sometimes becomes the focus of a students attention as without this paperwork being signed off, we cannot pass the placement. I feel that the emphasis university place on having the paperwork completed can result in some students losing sight of other things, especially if they have a mentor who doesn’t have the time to complete the paperwork.
But I also acknowledge that the paperwork has to be there as a form of assessment for the mentors, placement areas and universities to be able to assess our competency in practice. We stress about the paperwork, we have tonnes of it, it is perplexing and perhaps at times repetitive - but it needs to be done. As I rapidly approach my 3rd year with a skills log with over 200 competencies that need completing, I am starting to panic.
I don’t believe student nurses are too ‘posh to wash’, and I do believe we should know the basics. Mentors have a massive responsibility in this regard. A good mentor can challenge and develop a student; and help them understand the importance of the basics. I have been incredibly lucky with all my placements and had superb mentors.
And don’t forget we aren’t just student nurses. The majority of us study full time and we also have jobs, kids to look after and our own dramas. But whatever we are going through, the majority of student nurses are here because we are passionate about what we do. We want to learn and we want to be good nurses.
We are perhaps cocooned in the safety of student status. Qualifying, and being suddenly accountable, is a very scary thought. When I qualify I don’t expect to be a ‘supernurse’ who knows everything. I hope to be a safe nurse who understands the importance of the basics.