Student nurse Claire Aubrey is feeling the strain of her first placement in a cardiology unit
The first day of placement is never easy, no matter how many times I go through it and, although I was really out to impress from the off this time, I still felt a riot of nerves from the moment I stepped on the ward.
Although I have been sent to a cardiology ward in the past, I was a little bit naughty and spent the entirety of my six weeks there in the most fabulous nursing position I can think of, the Coronary Care Unit. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that this new placement is technically my first medical placement. The patients are quite a mixed bag but there is a certain number of chemotherapy patients amongst others, so I am relishing the new challenges this will bring me.
Along with the general fears of fitting in and making a good impression, I had the added worry of a repeat situation of last time, where a mentor was so hard on me and I felt so out of my depth that I actually questioned becoming a nurse at all.
So I went in full of smiles, note-taking and questions. I performed my duties and took some initiative, much to the pleasure of my new mentor. Things were running quite smoothly until the afternoon; it could well have been down to a combination of the pressure, a bad night’s sleep and a twelve and a-half hour shift but by the late afternoon I was feeling pretty stupid and started to worry about my competence.
Firstly, I forgot to report a BM - not a problematic one, I might add - then was corrected for nearly giving only half a prescribed dose of a medication and finally, the kicker came when I fell full-pelt over a free-standing, height measurement scale. The more things seemed to go wrong, the more stupid and embarrassed I felt, which, in turn, led me to pull away from my mentor. I did not want this to happen because I already work in a very solitary way and it is my aim to liaise better with my mentor both for patient safety and my own self-improvement. Paradoxically, the more nervous I became and the more help I needed, the more independent I became.
Perhaps I was hoping my mentor would not see how idiotic I had become over the day; at the end of the day, this is the person who has the responsibility of saying whether you are competent and will make a good nurse in the future or not.
I must admit that while on placement, I feel the presence of that giant blue signing-off book in my bag all the time.
The thought of missing any opportunity to fill its blank, white pages is horrifying and I wondered yesterday whether the staff ever see the real me. The importance of an outward appearance of confidence and knowledge is so vital to the report at the end and it seems so easy to become caught up in its significance.
Is this the way to train and become qualified, not quite paid staff, not quite free to wander and learn? How can students feel free to get to real grips with the on goings of their placement and patients if there is constantly another agenda behind the scenes?
I am sure that the outcomes are met just by working hard and using common sense, and so the book does really have the foreboding power that it appears to wield. However, it would be naive to think that it does not play a part on an everyday basis and influence the way in which we behave, in that it is slightly unnatural and guarded.
I see by my own withdrawal from my mentor in times of panic that there is a certain danger to that and it is my self-awareness and reflection that I hope will enable me to avoid this situation and become a calmer and more controlled nurse in the future.