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'My first day on placement just wasn't meant to be'


Yesterday was my first day on placement - and it rather went to pot.

Vicki Abrahams

“That’s okay” I hear you cry. It’s alright to mess up catastrophically on the first day of your first placement. But this wasn’t my first day on my first placement; I’m now on my fourth.

By now I should be a dab hand at making first impressions, quickly assessing the ward routine and slotting in without a fuss. Alas, that just isn’t me. I can’t picture I time when nerves haven’t led me to say something daft or just plain trip over in front of everyone.

“Then it went wrong. I got nervous. I became tongue-tied.”

2.2 is the placement proceeding entry to third year. It should be the one where things slot into place and you start to function with some confidence.

It started well with a welcoming mentor and instructions to shadow the nurse in charge that day.

Then it went wrong. I got nervous. I became tongue-tied.

On my first drug round since my first placement (I’ve had no ward based placements for an age now) she asked me what Enoxaparin was used for and I proceeded to say “um” for an eternity.

“I felt a complete failure and as though the nurses were all grateful I wasn’t their student.”

I know what the drug is. I’ve administered it so many times. It’s even on the exam I’m currently procrastinating over. I can tell you what it does, how it does it and on a good day, even the dose.

But this first day was just not meant to be one of those good days.

The day continued in a similar fashion. I tripped over (those shiny clean floors seem to catch my shoes), I missed a buzzer and I accidently said a bit of an innuendo that made those around me laugh and caused my face to blush.

I tried to feel a pulse on a man without a pulse (he was still alive, don’t worry) and I had to ask how to put together the most complicated commode of my life. When did we start having to build these? What happened to simple commodes that you just sit on?

“At the end of that day, that patient knew my name. I did (in the end) manage to do something useful.”

All in all, the day was pants. I felt a complete failure and as though the nurses were all grateful I wasn’t their student.

However, there was a little bit of light at the end of this grim tunnel.

A patient took a bit of a turn and I wasn’t altogether useless. Yes I didn’t do the medical bit. But I did hold her hand and speak to her calmly throughout.

At the end of that day, that patient knew my name. She thanked me. She told her daughter about me and she also said thanks. I did (in the end) manage to do something useful.

I may have forgotten how to do some things and that’s fine. Those skills will drift back to me with practice. And in the meantime I do still have the ability to reassure a patient, keep them calm and be a nurse they can trust.

Vicki Abrahams is Student Nursing Times’ adult branch student editor


Readers' comments (3)

  • joseph charella

    Thank you for sharing that with us! It's nice to know that these things happen to all of us.

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  • Well done for getting through it! Good article.

    Fortunately nursing also has its funny side too and oldies can spend hours reminiscing and usually about such situations which we all go through. Often it just breaks the ice to admit your are nervous or make light of something where appropriate.

    I remember one very stern sister and our best move was to keep well out of her way and we were largely ignored by her anyway. You would only come to her attention if you did something very wrong the staff nurses couldn't cover up for you. One day passing her desk in the middle of the ward somehow the soft boiled eggs I was carrying to patients for their breakfast all went splat on the floor and I had to try and clear up all the mess under her watchful beady eyes! Don't suppose young nurses would have any idea what these old dragons were like! Times were hard and they reduced many to tears!

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  • is very funny. i remember polishing the taps with surgical spirit . polishing and cleaning wards was in ,in those days. i remember sauntering out of the clinical room rather sizzled with the inhalation of the surgical spirit fumes....oh yes,those were the days

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