A friend of mine text me the other night. She started her training recently and was due to begin her first placement on a urology ward in the morning
She was nervous and she asked me for advice. I listed a number of things for her to read up on - fluid charts, blood pressure medication, diabetes, catheterisation, renal function, bloodwork, medication management guidelines.
I was excited for her. I knew she’d be fantastic and I just wanted to help, but in reality I bombarded her with too much information and probably made her feel worse.
I thought back to my first placement - a whole four years ago now - how I felt and what I wish someone had told me. So here is what I wish I’d said to her instead.
Get an early night, sort your bag, prepare your uniform and have a good breakfast. A sleepless night is perfectly normal, don’t let it worry you.
You’ll be your mentor’s shadow for a few days. It’s fine. We all feel like that. Just let them go to the toilet on their own and you’ll be alright.
Read up on what your placement area deals with. Ask them what they’d expect you to know. If it’s a renal unit, knowing what a kidney is would be a good idea.
Take every opportunity out there. If there are specialist nurses, clinics that interest you or if you feel another area will help your learning, go for it. Follow a patient to theatre in an attempt to truly understand what they go through when they are in our care.
Keep a diary. Write down how things made you feel, what to look up when you get home, reflect on what you’d do next time, and always remember what you did well and what you’re proud of. I still do this. It’s great for looking back at your past self for advice.
Know your limits and ask for help. No one will think less of you for admitting you’re not sure about something and asking if someone can you show you first.
And lastly, just be yourself. It will all become easier.
Alice Eveleigh is a Theatre Staff Nurse, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.