Student nurses come from all kinds of backgrounds and range in age from school leavers to more mature students.
Many have not cared for anyone before, let alone those approaching the end of their life.
We believe that caring for a person at the end of their life is a privilege that nurses experience throughout their careers. Each nurse’s first and subsequent experiences will be different and the support they receive in practice will vary.
While Rachael started her nursing journey straight from college – with only a few months care experience – she felt out of her depth and was emotional when dealing with patients at the end of life.
Ellen had several years’ experience in care; she felt that there was an expectation that she should be more resilient.
Both of us faced different challenges when caring for palliative patients, however, we were fortunate enough to have supportive mentors on placement.
“Many were unaware of the support available both within university and in practice”
At the end of our first year, we spent time reflecting with our peers and discussed our experiences. We listened to our colleagues and understood that many struggled to cope with the difficult emotions that arise the in provision of end-of-life care.
Many were unaware of the support available both within university and in practice. We discussed this and agreed that we felt that students should be taught end-of-life care to enable them to build resilience in a safe environment prior to commencing their first placement.
At the beginning of the second year, we joined the Student Quality Ambassador (SQA) project, which is a North West initiative for healthcare students wishing to improve standards of care – as well as promote best practice.
We decided that we could use our roles as SQAs to work on a project to support students to build emotional resilience when caring for patients at this vital time. We are both very passionate about end-of-life care, and so it made sense to focus our attention on it.
The purpose of the project is to equip student nurses with the tools necessary to build emotional resilience in the provision of end-of-life care.
The project aims to address this by educating student nurses on what to expect in death and dying and the support networks available to them through university and the placement areas.
Although the project is still in its infancy, it has received positive feedback and support from a number of arenas, including from peers at an SQA development day, staff at the University of Chester and also the Academy of NHS Fabulous Stuff.
While nothing can fully prepare students to care for a dying patient, we hope our project supports them to build emotional resilience in the provision of end-of-life care.
We are very proud of how our nursing journey has begun and where it can lead us.
Rachael Lambe and Ellen Soutter are student nurses (adult field) and student quality ambassadors at University of Chester