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.
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