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'Sympathies must be managed when you work on a gynaecology ward'

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To those of you who have recently been allocated a placement on a gynaecology ward, I want to give a brief review of my experience as a student nurse in the hope it will assist with your research and preparation

I’d heard a range of views from registered nurses about working on a gynaecology ward before I started.

Some enjoyed the continuity of care on the ward - being able to build up a strong relationship with the patients because they remained there for longer periods in comparison to other clinical environments.

Yet some nurses insisted on avoiding this department on the grounds that, in their view, women patients could be more moody and argumentative than men.

I enjoyed working on the ward, although due to the nature of the department I did encounter emotional obstacles.

I feel the toughest part about nursing on a gynaecology ward is distancing yourself from patients. You have to be able to work the shift and limit displays of sympathy when you treat a woman who is 19 weeks pregnant and having to give birth to a stillborn baby and prepare the baby to be sent to the mortuary.

Conversely, a nurse recounted how on one particular day she had to stop herself from crying when treating a mother undergoing a termination of pregnancy. The mother said that she was 16 weeks pregnant, but actually a 20-week foetus was removed. The foetus was apparently still breathing so the nurse watched it die before returning to the patient.

The most graphic surgery I have ever seen was for a post-menopausal woman having a hysterectomy. The surgeon explained to me the mechanics of the procedure and the anatomy she was cutting. Nonetheless nothing prepared me for how this patient’s enlarged womb (described by the surgical nurse as “as big as a grapefruit”) was tugged out of her.

From my experiences on a gynaecology ward, I greatly developed my clinical skill of treating inpatients and can recommend the following:

  1. In the nursing environment apply all information you have learned to future similar situations. The more you learn, the more experience you have. Although I had never been on a gynaecology ward prior to this placement, I was able to apply similar clinical skills I had learnt from previous placements
  2. If someone offers help always say yes. I have learnt from experience I would much rather be involved in doing a task, even if it is menial, than feel excluded. Many trained professionals working in a team is better than one struggling individual.
  3. Contrary to my initial attitude I’ve learnt that friendly practitioners who spend time talking to student nurses are often the ones who are the most professional and skilled. It is an NMC requirement for nurses to act as mentors to more junior healthcare professionals, and in this way it is often the nurses who take their career seriously and are well qualified to talk with and support student nurses. Similarly other professionals, such as doctors who are fantastic at their work, recognise that it is important to teach students for the future of the NHS.
  4. Most importantly, it is vital as a nurse to remain focused on treating your patient to the best of your abilities.

After my placement I decided that if I had the option, I would prefer not to work on a gynaecology ward because I enjoy a faster-paced environment. However I am glad that I had the opportunity to train as a student nurse in this department.

Indeed, that is one beauty of being a student nurse - the wide variety of clinical settings one gets to experience which will broaden horizons and help us all to make an informed decision of where we want to work once qualified.

Genevieve Elliott is a current student nurse.

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