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'I found my first grey hairs when I started my nursing course!'

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Having no previous healthcare experience, Kelly found herself wondering what she’d let herself in for when she first stepped onto a ward, but her positive attitude helped turn things around


At the end of my first week of placement I was so shell shocked I cried in my car before heading home.

My placement was on a super busy respiratory ward and having never worked in a hospital before, it came as a shock.

Despite all the classes at university discussing the diversity of wards, I was still amazed at the variety of patients and health conditions being treated on what was a specialist ward. Alongside respiratory conditions there were patients with mental health illnesses, learning disabilities and physical disabilities, the list seemed endless and extremely overwhelming.

I tried to be as prepared as I could be by doing some general reading around common respiratory conditions and how they are treated. But I soon found one of the best ways to learn was by talking to ward staff, patients and their visitors - this was an invaluable learning experience and one of my favourite parts of placement. I learnt so much about the person I was providing care for and I like to think it made a difference to the patients to have someone to chat with now and again.

“The staff I reached out to were all so happy to have someone who was curious to find out about what they do”

I found patients and relatives were more willing for a student to be involved in procedures as they saw me as a friendly face, I may have been on a respiratory ward but I was able to observe procedures ranging from head CTs to gynaecology exams.

Getting in contact with other professionals is something I found awkward at first (why would the experienced and busy staff want a first year with basic knowledge hanging off their coat tails?!) but once I plucked up the courage to contact other areas related to my placement I realised I had been completely underestimating them.

The staff I reached out to were all so happy to have someone who was curious to find out about what they do and to show me how they do it. By being proactive I got to spend time with everyone from an infection control nurse who quizzed me about hand washing techniques, to a professor who involved me in a bone marrow biopsy and explained how the samples would be tested.

One of the hardest things for me during placement time was staying on top of my academic work, there was so much to learn on the ward but I still had exams and essays that needed attention.

There were times I became stressed (I found my first grey hairs!) but by staying organised I got through everything with marks I’m proud of. Luckily I worked three long days a week on the ward so I could dedicate days off to the academic side and squeeze in some part time work too. It was a juggling act and a huge learning curve but it was all worth it in the end.

I experienced a huge range of firsts on my placement, everything from carrying out last offices to incorrectly draining a catheter bag and filling my glove with urine. Throughout it all I asked questions, even if they seemed stupid, I stayed in contact with classmates for support on those days I didn’t think I could make it through and I made sure I enjoyed it all.

Placements were definitely the most terrifying and most amazing experience for me in my first year, I laughed, cried and learnt so much from each of them. I can’t wait to see what second year placements have in store for me!

Kelly Robson is in her second year studying adult nursing

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