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'There was so much going on I began to feel dizzily confused'


Student nurse, Claire Aubrey, is struggling with a new surgical placement

I started my surgical placement three weeks ago and I find that I am only just starting to enjoy it. It’s a very strange feeling, not settling into a ward for that length of time. I will not deny there were tears as I feared that I would never grasp the idea of the ward and, perhaps stupidly, began to doubt my talents in nursing. This was a horrific feeling and one that I have been lucky enough to avoid until now, as a second year.

To begin with, everything seemed so chaotic. The ward was permanently overrun with a wide range of people. Of course, we all know the importance of getting involved with a multi-disciplinary team but I felt like I was drowning in an interprofessional sea of bodies, each with their own agenda and invariably, the patient notes that you needed!

Everything seemed to be exactly where you were not in that moment and there was so much tooing and froing that I began to feel dizzily confused. The wide range of medication, not just in terms of type but administration route, meant that there was a perpetual journey to somewhere else for the drug or the equipment. If you were lucky it was the treatment room but journeys to several other wards, and ventures to new places I had never been before, could be expected.

The patients also were in a constant state of motion, coming and going, changing and returning. Sometimes nurses would be discussing a patient who had been discharged and it occurred to me that I had never even seen their face.

Compared to other placements I knew very little about my patients and must have looked at their observations and infusions much more often than their faces. It was depressing and I will admit, I felt like I was not really coping. It was for this reason that I began to doubt myself in the profession as suddenly felt like a fraud. The reality of the lack of holistic care came as a short, sharp shock to me and the ultimate pressure of short-staffing was never more apparent than here.

I was clearly spoilt on my last placement, which funnily enough was mental health and not even my chosen branch, as care was very long term and very holistic. The comparison was obvious and I immediately felt uncomfortable and out of my depth. And so I did what any reasonable student would do - I panicked. It was very upsetting and I talked to my mentor about my nerves but it did not really help.

My mentor, however, has been wonderful, giving me every opportunity to practice my high-level skills and over the last few days, everything has started to slide into place.

As my competencies have grown with practice, so has my confidence and my time management, leaving me with more time to provide a more holistic style of care. I will not say that the level is the best it can be but this is another issue in regards to qualified staffing numbers.

However, there are ways to cope with this kind of frenetic ward and provide a really good level of care so I would advise anyone who is not really feeling their best on a placement to perhaps give it some time, even if it seems like a lot, as things do change with practice and confidence.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Hello, i really know how you feel, im a 2nd year student and like you had been ok with all other placements untill my last one. It was on a very busy emergency assessment unit, OMG what a shock to me how it runs. I nearly gave up on nursing as i was overwelmed by it all.
    I did a night shift and really wanted to leave the whole course. I stuck at it and even tho it really wasnt a placement i liked i did learn how to time manage lol i had no choice it was that busy.

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  • good luck, keep going!

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