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'Not everything is in the place you would expect it to be'

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Nursing Times blogger Stuart Young on clinical skills training in the third year.

As my second week of being a third year came to a close, I got to spend time in the clinical skills labs at Birmingham City University. These are a purpose built set or ward bays that have all the things you would find on a typical ward. Like a typical ward not everything is in the place you would logically expect it to be, and on many occasions you spend time looking for the most obvious of things.

The point of my session was to get hands on with some of the hemodynamic monitoring equipment that as a student I would be likely to come into contact with during my clinical placement as well as looking at the theory and evidence base behind why we use certain pieces of equipment.

Sitting in small groups we moved around four work stations, the first two were to do with maintaining systemic pressure, and their monitoring with arterial and central lines.

The third station looked at electronic heart monitoring recognising sinus rhythm and the meaning of PQRST waves, as the lecturer pointed out as long as we know what we are looking for in a “normal” patient we can easily identify when something is abnormal and needing our intervention or to get further medical assistance.

The fourth station initially surprised me, it was a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer for manual blood pressures. How often do we take a manual blood pressure? This was the point of the station.

I was reminded as I looked at the work station of something that Florence nightingale said of nurse training “The most important practical lesson that can be given to nurses is to teach them what to observe”. A skill many students even in the third year have had little practical experience of doing.

As we worked through the manual blood pressure worksheets and practiced palpating the cuff and taking a manual pressure, I realised that regardless of all the equipment we encounter on placement as students there is one thing that is key to their uses – the student nurse using them. We have an amazing ability as students to be in the right place at the right time and to make a real difference to our patients.


The end of my week saw me back in London at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) for the last Association of Nursing Students (ANS) Executive Committee meeting for the 2009 / 2010 year.

We spent time looking at the plans for RCN Congress 2011 in Liverpool and the format for Students Day, look out for further details soon.

In the afternoon we started to work on a report of what the committee has done in the past 12 months, this will be presented to RCN Council to show what the student voice has achieved within the profession and the college, a copy will also be available online.

The meeting also gave me a chance to say good bye to Laura King the RCN Student Co-ordinator who left the student team on Friday to take up a year secondment in the communications team, Laura has been a great rock to me personally and I would not have got through the last two years without her, so THANK YOU Laura and Good Luck.


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