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'Find your balance between learning and helping a struggling NHS'

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We’ve all experienced it – a team being a member of staff short, our names on the board despite being supernumerary. It’s often difficult for staff to remember that we’re not there to work, we are there to find get relevant, educational nursing exposure.


Of course, when somebody needs assistance with a wash or a turn and we are available to help, we will – it’s in our nature.

However, in my nursing experience I have found that more often than not, it is expected of us to automatically help no matter what we are currently doing. As “there’s no point in us observing this, we’ll get another chance” or “a drug round doesn’t need two people”.

This article is not to blame these staff, but to highlight how as student nurses we can make the most of our placements.

Set goals

When starting your day, express your desire of things you would like to achieve that day. This could having your own group of patients, which enables you to say “I’m sorry I’m in the middle of something right now and I’m focusing on working with these patients today” – is there anybody else who could help you out?

It can also mean that you have protected times throughout the day, such as expressing that you would like to be present during the drug rounds or doing certain paperwork.

Have a discussion when jobs are delegated

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to say ”no”. But this is something we will have to learn how to do sooner than later. Although we like to think nurses are superheroes – which we are – we can’t do everything. Politely saying that you’re in the middle of something and will come when you can leaves no room for anybody to be annoyed.

“Communication is key”

Talk to your mentor

Communication is key and if you really feel that you aren’t learning anything talk to your mentor.

It can often slip their minds when they go to do something that it may be something you’d like to experience. However, if it is the entirety of your placement area take it to your university.

Courage is one of the six Cs and although it may seem daunting, it will be worth it to come out of university a confident and competent nurse. 

To finish, seeing how the ward is run and experience the routine take is a great way to become accustomed to wards. Healthcare assistants are the foundation and without them, the NHS would simply not run, so never feel like you are ‘above’ these routine tasks.

Just don’t feel obligated – you are there to learn and ensure that you take your learning into your own hands.

Some placements allow you to go off the ward for related learning opportunities. If it is specific members of staff, try to organise your shifts so that you are not on with them if possible.

Caitlin Adeniyi-Jones is a second-year nursing student at the Univeristy of East Anglia

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