‘Twas the night before placement, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse – thankfully – but the butterflies in my stomach seemed to be having a whale of a time.
We’ve all been there: the anxiety of walking into the clinical environment, the doubts, the thoughts of “this isn’t the specialty that interests me, so what am I going to get out of it?”.
Oh, how wrong those thoughts were.
I recently spent a number of weeks as a student nurse. Let me rephrase that: I recently spent a number of weeks as part of the elderly community mental health team. Yes, part of the team; after the initial introductions to many people whose names would take days to remember, eventually getting my details through from IT so that I could log in to the computers. A reasonably quiet first day.
The second day was not so quiet – nor many days after that. My mentor and I head out on an urgent first visit – I’ll probably just observe and watch the masters at work…. No!
I spend time chatting with the patient – my mentor chatted with the husband in another room. I have been thrown in at the deep end, convincing her that the “dark ages” of mental health treatment are over – reassuring her of the person-centred care that she would receive. The outcome was a positive one, and my mentor and I went on our way.
Wow, I actually just made a difference; my judgement and interpersonal skills were trusted during a very sensitive and difficult time. I finally feel like I have a purpose.
My mentor and I would use the time in the car between visits, or heading back to the office, to reflect on what we had just done on the previous visit.
As the weeks went by and I spent more time as part of the team, and as a double act with my mentor, I had built up such a good rapport with her and everyone that I didn’t want to leave.
The weeks flew by and alas, it was my last day.
Now, I am usually a pretty laid-back person, however, I genuinely felt like I was breaking up with someone. I really didn’t want to leave. I hated the fact that I wouldn’t get “closure “ with a lot of the individuals that had welcomed me into their homes and opened up to me. I hated the fact that I wouldn’t be a part of this team anymore. My initial thoughts of “what would I get out of this” changed to “ how do I get more of this?”.
My point is, as difficult as it is, please don’t have preconceived judgements about how your placement is going to go because it doesn’t have a sexy title, or isn’t a ‘cool’ area to work in.
The reason the service that you are going to exists is because people need it. One day that person may well be you.
NIcholas Kelly is a first-year student mental health nurse