Kristen Paskins discusses the essential items to have with you on your first day.
1. A fob watch: you will definitely be needing one of these if you are going to be taking patient observations (e.g. heart rate and respiratory rate). You will find that it is very easy to lose track of time - especially if you are bus - so to have have a clock on you will help you stick to your schedule.
2. Pens: a pen is one of the most important things when you are on the ward. You will be writing patient notes, admission paperwork, observation charts, discharge paperwork - the list goes on. You will need a pen - several pens actually, because over the course of the year I can guarantee you will lose many of them.
3. A notepad: this will be your best friend. You can try writing all of your notes on your handover sheet but I promise you will run out of room at the most inconvenient time, so definitely bring a notepad. Just don’t forget that any confidential information you write down must be disposed of in a confidential waste bin at the end of your shift.
4. Lunch and snacks: there may not be somewhere to buy lunch on your placement so make sure you have food with you (and lots of it! All that running around during the day will take up a lot of energy, so bring plenty of fuel to keep you going.
5. Water: the essential fluid of life. Water is vital if you are working a long day. You will find that sometimes the air conditioning can dry your throat out so keep a water bottle nearby to stay hydrated.
6. Paperwork: you may have paperwork for your mentor to fill out so be sure to have this with you on your first day.
7. A timesheet: some universities ask that you fill out a timesheet. On this you will write down all the dates of your shifts. Next to each date, your mentor will sign their name to prove that you have attended that shift. Remember the number one nursing rule: what is not written down, never happened.
8. A tabbard: this is not a compulsory part of your uniform but it is useful to have one in order to keep all of your nursing essentials in. Your nursing uniform will have pockets but these are not always secure enough to stop your belongings from falling out. Make sure to check that your ward staff allow tabbards as part of your uniform before purchasing one, of course. You can also buy a tool belt instead if this is more acceptable.
9. Nursing shoes and uniform: for infection control reasons, you should not wear your nursing uniform when travelling to and from your shift. Instead, bring it in a bag and change when you arrive. Your university should provide your uniform but you will probably have to buy your own shoes. These should be closed-toed, black shoes made from a wipeable material (preferably leather). And make sure they are comfy!
10. A smile: to quote Annie, “you’re never fully-dressed without a smile”. And it is true. A smile can really change someone’s day so wear it proudly; by the end of your shift, your cheeks should be aching!
Kristen Paskins is a current student nurse