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STUDENT EDITOR BLOG

First week on the wards

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It’s December, the end of the calendar year, and I’m nine months into my degree. I’m also at the end of my very first week working on a ward as a student nurse, as opposed to nursing assistant, and it has been absolutely incredible.

Katie Sutton_SNT

I was surprised to find that I had answers for everyone

I chose to do a week’s worth of earlies so that I could attend ward rounds and use them to get to know the current patients, their symptoms, physical health conditions, and some of their histories. I also had opportunity to spend 1-1 time with different patients, getting to know them better and figuring out what I can do to achieve my competencies. I’ve been able to get some of my clinical skills in my PDP signed off, so it’s been a productive, as well as exciting, week.

That said, if I am completely honest I’m a little surprised at needing signatures to prove I have been taught, have observed, have been observed doing, and am competent at, some really quite simple tasks. But I am delighted to say that as of this week, I am capable of washing my hands (among other things)!

As the week progressed, my role began to feel more and more real.

I asked one of the staff nurses if I could observe as he gave out medications. He said yes and handed me a pile of drug cardex files saying “Here you go”.

For the briefest moment, I did my best rabbit-in-headlights impression for him, and then got to work. And I actually found I knew what I was doing. It seemed natural: check the patient’s details, the drug name, the dosage, the expiry dates on the blister packs and bottles. Then show the nurse and sign each medication off as I pop it into the little paper cup. The nurse counter-signed everything to say I’d been supervised and had done it right.

It took a bit longer than it usually would because of not knowing where each medication lived on the shelves. But after tidying up and completing the notes I’d been assigned, I went home feeling proud of myself that I’d completed a drugs round successfully.

Then today rolled around, and I was on shift with a third year student, two newly qualified nurses (one doing a preceptorship and the other with a PIN so brand-spanking new that both were being supervised by the ward manager) and a good complement of nursing assistants.

I spent the morning doing various jobs for a new admission, and then went to find a patient to review their care plan. When I came out, I found that the staff nurses and ward manager were just heading into handover and needed me to keep everything ticking over for half an hour or so.

All of a sudden, everyone had questions to ask me. The SHO appeared, asking if I could arrange for a sample to be collected from the ward. The pharmacist wanted to know where a particular patient was. Patients wanted cigarettes, escorted leave and more towels.

And I was surprised to find that I had answers for everyone. I knew where to find the paperwork, I knew how to figure out who could facilitate leave, and I knew where to find the porters’ extension number. After a little under five shifts, I felt like I knew what I was doing and this evening I’ve got my feet up enjoying basking in a bit of self-belief.

Until the next time I’m trying to remember what class of drugs quetiapine falls under - and how to spell it!

 

Katie Sutton is mental health student editor for Student Nursing Times

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Ah, well done Katie! Sounds like you've had a good week. I'm so happy you can wash your hands haha

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  • michael stone

    Ah !

    'That said, if I am completely honest I’m a little surprised at needing signatures to prove I have been taught, have observed, have been observed doing, and am competent at, some really quite simple tasks. But I am delighted to say that as of this week, I am capable of washing my hands (among other things)!'

    But it isn't quite so simple, in terms of what you wash your hands with, is it ? A couple of days ago, the question of whether anti-bacterial handwashes were causing more problems than they were solving, was raised and covered (but not answered) in the media.

    It's amazing, how simple things can turn out to be so complicated - I hope you have more good weeks in the future.

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