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Putting the 'super' in supernumerary

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When I started my nursing degree, I was prepared to be a quiet observer; during my first placement I listened, learned, and did what was asked of me.

I wasn’t exactly useful to the team, but they liked having me around.

Now I’m on my second placement with district nurses this has drastically changed. I feel useful.

There is a slightly superstitious joke that I have healing powers since a lot of patients that I visit (with different nurses) have lovely healed wounds. But maybe it’s that whoever takes me gets extra in terms of mileage claim due to my presence in the car.

“My apparent popularity is enabling me to see how valuable students are whilst on placement”

Whatever the reason, my apparent popularity is enabling me to see how valuable students are whilst on placement.

Students are useful with those more time-consuming patients. We have a lot of patients who need a two-layer bandage on each leg, often due to oedema and ulcers. Now since a two-layer bandage requires a reasonable amount of time and effort, it’s always handy to have a second person present.

I recently visited a man who required two-layer bandaging on both legs, and had a suspected gangrenous toe. It was good that I was there as the nurse I was helping could take time to phone the relevant people whilst I finished the bandaging and took notes. It makes the visits more efficient.

“Students are useful with those more time-consuming patients”

I’ve also noticed that I am often the eyes and ears, both in the office and with patients. So I will pick up something which one nurse may not have remembered or doesn’t know about due to the fact they weren’t there during that particular visit. So I’ll often pipe up during handover with things such as “that patient needs a new sharps bin”. It’s not groundbreaking or life-saving stuff but it helps.

This week I’ve been assisting in the recreation of the caseload map. Due to my computer skills (I always knew that ICT GCSE would come in handy) Again, I am being helpful.

“The breadth and depth of our education is influenced by how much we are willing to get stuck in”

Although sometimes it can be frustrating because of the ’just a student’ attitude of some colleagues and patients, remember that this is such a valuable time. Not only are we learning hands-on, but the breadth and depth of our education is influenced by how much we are willing to get stuck in.

Be brave, bring your skills to the table and you’ll get more out of every placement you go to.

Kate Uprichard is a current student nurse

Kate is part of a group of nursing and midwifery students at the University of Manchester writing a blog aimed at supporting first-year students. This student-led project launched last year particularly focuses on sharing experiences about placement

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