Jan Royal and Craig Meager discuss supporting nursing students in the emergency department of a regional Major Trauma Centre.
Craig and I worked together to support nursing students in our respective lecturer and clinical roles in the emergency department of a regional Major Trauma Centre. As a lecturer I did not have a clinical background in emergency care and after a few visits felt uncomfortable supporting students when my anxiety over the surroundings and busy environment meant I was distracted whilst in the department and unsure of how to respond to questions or clinical situations.
After discussion with Craig, the charge nurse, he offered to mentor me during a shift in the department to alleviate these fears. An honorary contract was arranged with the Trust to enable this. Saturday night in ‘resus’ was booked!
I was an experienced nurse turned lecturer but the range of emotion I felt prior to and during the shift was surprising. If I felt like this, how did students feel? I felt faint and nauseous during handover even though my role was clearly defined as observer with some participation. I was worried that more would be expected of me as a registered nurse and felt out of my depth due to a lack of experience.
As patients arrived initially I stood back and observed. Craig skilfully drew me in by asking me to do essential tasks as part of the patient care. Observations and making patients comfortable I was fine with. And then when a patient vomited I felt reassured that I knew what to do. I asked many questions, even ones about small issues such as how to attach the new style name-band. As the shift progressed I participated more as my anxiety reduced.
Since then I have reflected as a tutor on this experience with both mentors and students in class in order to highlight how a new placement may feel and the changes in confidence that a person can have in the right environment - as I did. Further, I now recognise I have more to offer to the placement area than I realised, my anxiety about the visits being significantly reduced.
As the practicing clinician supported by Jan from an academic perspective, I could not believe the same person was in front of me when in a clinical environment. She was a quivering wreck. Despite all assurances provided, her anxiety would not abate. We hit the ground running with a major trauma as our first case and despite encouragement Jan was adamant to remain on the sidelines.
I was amazed by how Jan, a normally confident character, was scared to even ask where the toilet was.
As the shift progressed it was obvious that her confidence was growing and she happily undertook more of a participatory role and by the end I began to suspect that she was actually enjoying it.
This experience proved to be a role reversal, with me as teacher and Jan as anxious learner in the clinical environment. As a charge nurse I am now more acutely aware that how students and new starters initially present may not necessarily be a true reflection of their usual character.
For both of us it has been a reminder of the need for immediate and ongoing support for students during their placements and a reminder of the anxiety a new placement can bring.
Jan Royal is a Lecturer, Division of Nursing, The University of Nottingham and at the time Craig Meager was Deputy Charge Nurse and Student Link Nurse, Emergency Department, Nottingham University Hospitals.