In her first blog, adult branch student editor Lucy Williams discusses how one placement has changed her career path for the better
It is currently 3.46am and I am on my second break of a 12.5-hour night shift. I am one week in to the penultimate placement of my nursing degree.
I am emotionally drained and physically exhausted from my ‘sign-off’ placement but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am finally starting to feel like a real nurse and as if I am making a positive impact on my patients’ and their families’ lives.
My third-year placement is at a hospice close to where I live. Palliative care is not an area I thought I would want to work in when I embarked upon my nursing degree two years ago. I always thought I would either thrive off the excitement of an emergency department or enjoy the routine of a ward.
How wrong I was.
“Although a few of my colleagues scoffed ’you won’t learn anything new there’ I knew I had to do what I felt was right for me”
After spending time the district nurses during my second year and experiencing the amazing lengths community nurses will go to fulfil their patient’s wishes to die at home I knew I wanted to learn more about end-of-life care.
This led to me requesting to spend my sign-off placement at a hospice. Although a few of my colleagues scoffed “you won’t learn anything new there” and it was “too specialised for a sign-off placement” I knew I had to do what I felt was right for me.
“I thought the hospice would be a sad place where people were down all of the time. As soon as I arrived I knew this wasn’t the case”
Whilst I had, of course, been a model student and read about palliative care I still felt completely unprepared and had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the hospice. I think in my head I thought the hospice would be a sad place where people were down all of the time and it would be quiet enough to hear a pin drop. As soon as I arrived I knew this wasn’t the case.
I was greeted on my first shift by giggles in the staff room and I knew instantly it wasn’t the solemn place I thought it would be. I was surprised to realise that a majority of the patients were not at the hospice to die. They were spending time at the unit to get their symptoms under control so they could return to home to fulfil their wish to die at home.
“There isn’t a need to get all patients washed before breakfast. If they would prefer a bath after breakfast this is what happens”
The hospice is different from a hospital ward. The pace for one, because the patients are the ones that set it. There isn’t a need to get all patients washed before breakfast. If they would prefer a bath after breakfast this is what happens. I love this ethos - it’s person-centred care at its best.
Because it is different I felt like a first-year all over again. I felt as if I knew nothing but as I started working with my mentor I realised the skills and knowledge I had accrued so far during my degree were the perfect foundation for exposure to such a specialised area of nursing.
My knowledge of controlled drugs and end-of-life drugs has soared in such a small amount of time there, as well as my wound-care skills and my ability in tracheostomy care.
“I am learning it is okay to hold a patient’s hand because they are frightened to die alone or to shed a tear when a loved one is lost”
But most importantly I am learning it is okay to hold a patient’s hand because they are frightened to die alone or to shed a tear when a loved one is lost. And it is okay to laugh and joke with the patients and express happiness, as even though it is an environment full of sadness the patients are still allowed to feel good.
Nursing is not just about saving lives; it is about being able to support a patient into death. That’s why I know palliative care is where I want to be.