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Students rely on good advice

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There’s a fine line between helpful and downright irritating. When you’re a student or a newly qualified nurse, there’s never a shortage of people giving you advice

It’s assessing advice that I find difficult – what’s the rationale behind it? Is it evidence based? Is it backed up in policy? And occasionally – is it relevant?

But sometimes you’re given advice that is clearly so good and so valid that you cannot help but instantly adopt it as a personal motto.

When I first started in my current place of work, a more senior nurse reminded me: ‘When anything changes in your patient – anything – reassess from the beginning using ABC, that is airway, breathing and circulation. You won’t go far wrong then.’

And she was right. Because sometimes, when a situation has been changing rapidly and I’ve been a bit thrown by it, her words come back to me and I reassess ABC, just as she said. And it’s always been the right thing to do.

Another senior nurse was fond of the pithy maxim: ‘Smile at everyone, trust no one.’ OK, it does sound like something
you would hear on The X-Files but the sentiment behind it is spot on. We all know how important it is to work as a team, to get on with our colleagues and trust each other’s actions.

I have never regretted double-checking that the IV fluids that I have received with a patient is the bag detailed on the fluid chart, nor of pausing an epidural infusion and checking that the syringe tallies with the prescription.

Perhaps all the nursing advice that I have ever received could be condensed into my sister’s favourite motto, usually delivered with a certain glint in her eye after the morning handover: ‘Be alert ladies… be alert.’ And that is very good advice.

Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a staff nurse in Devon

Want to read more of Starting Out? Just click on the 'more by this author' link at the top of the page

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