As a student nurse with limited funds I regularly undertake agency shifts at my local hospital to gain some extra money and keep myself immersed in hospital life.
I’ve found during my studies that it is easy to get out of practice with the hands-on care required from our role when we have so many weeks of academic study inbetween placements. We all have our own ways of doing things but it’s easy to forget the common sense things when you aren’t doing them regularly. During my first few shifts I always seem to forget all the items needed to assist someone to have a wash.
“Work-life balance is a tough thing to master as a student but I knew that these extra shifts would benefit me in the long run”
My first placement was on a liver and GI ward and I had many opportunities to practice these skills. However, my next placements were in the community and on a day surgery ward where opportunities to do so were few and far between.
Feeling a little anxious before my next placement, and finding my purse a little empty, I started doing more agency shifts when I had the time. Work-life balance is a tough thing to master as a student but I knew that these extra shifts would benefit me in the long run.
“However, on 90% of my shifts I am asked whether I am a student nurse.”
To my surprise, they gave me a bit of a confidence boost. On most of my shifts I don’t advertise that I’m a student nurse as I’m a little fearful that I will be given more responsibility than a HCA should have, or judged by the rest of the team. Speaking to other students it seems common to withhold this bit of information, so I don’t think I’m paranoid.
“On most of my shifts I don’t advertise that I’m a student nurse as I’m a little fearful that I will be given more responsibility than a HCA should have”
However, on 90% of my shifts I am asked whether I am a student nurse. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. Should I be offended? Do I appear incompetent? What is the tell-tale sign of a student nurse?
So I asked.
Apparently we students are a thoughtful bunch. We think about things a little deeper. We question why something physiological is happening and seek to find a reason. We also recognise our own competencies and report concerns as soon as possible.
“Apparently we students are a thoughtful bunch. We think about things a little deeper.”
These comments were in no way disrespectful to our wonderful HCA colleagues who do a fantastic job and are often highly trained, but staff can tell when student nurses are thinking things through and our passion for good care does appear to shine through.
Yes, agency shifts are tiring alongside work and family commitments, but if you can then I really advise giving them a go. It’s not ‘official’ experience, and no it doesn’t count towards placement hours, but it is extremely valuable.
I often feel petrified the night before a shift on a new ward and spend the early hours questioning my own competence. As soon as I get to work, roll up my sleeves and get on with it I realise I can do it.
I love helping people and the mystery of figuring out why something is happening and how to stop it. Working alongside my studies is something that is benefiting them, and my eyes are being opened to different areas that I would never get to see on placement.
Victoria Abrahams is a second year nursing student at Birmingham City University