No matter what stage you are at in your nursing degree you still get incredibly nervous about a new placement.
It is particularly nerve racking being a 3rd year when you’re constantly being reminded that “you’re practically qualified” - never say that to a student nurse!
My last placement was on an intensive care unit where I had the pleasure of providing one to one care to a critically ill patient.
After this, my next placement was a shock to the system. A female elective surgical ward, where the patient comings and goings was similar to planes landing and taking off from Heathrow airport…
I was keen to make a good impression, so spent my first couple of shifts getting caught up in the fast pace of the ward, admitting, preparing and check-listing, trying to be involved in every way I could with every aspect of patient care. But it was just too much to keep up with.
On my first shift this week I decided a new plan of attack. I would take a step back and be involved with the care of just four patients.
I must say this was much more manageable. I found myself caring for an elderly lady, Joan (pseudonym), who was admitted to the ward before having bladder surgery. Prior to this, her surgery had been cancelled two times. If that wasn’t enough she had a false eye and was partially sighted in the other.
I tried to imagine what it would be like being in an unfamiliar environment, partially sighted, anxious about having surgery, being nil by mouth and not even being able to tell patients from nurses. It must have been very frightening for her.
I asked myself what I would need to know if I couldn’t see? What would I expect of a nurse?
I introduced myself to Joan and informed her that I knew about her recent cancellations of surgery and that I was sorry for this. I told her my name and that I was here to help her in any way I could as I understood she was partially sighted.
I began by orientating her to the ward and guided her to the toilet explaining the route along the way.
I worked with her to set up her table with a jug, cup, call bell, eye drops and tissues. It was vitally important that she was kept informed as she wouldn’t know if staff were passing by to be able to ask them questions or for help.
After spending some time with Joan and building up a rapport she soon recognised my voice and there was no need for me to introduce myself every time. When I left the shift at 3pm I wished her well for her surgery and told her I would be there to bother her with assessments in the morning.
Joan’s surgery went well and she was in good spirits the next day. She again recognised my voice in the morning and I was there to set up her area for the day ensuring she had everything in reach on the table.
Throughout the shift I noticed a positive change in Joan’s body language and voice and our conversations were no longer about the uncertainties of the ward but about each other. It was fantastic to get to know her as a person and to learn how she coped at home with such little vision.
It was coming towards the end of my shift and I approached Joan to wish her well as I wouldn’t return to placement until the following week and she was due to be discharged before then.
She smiled at me, put an arm around me, gave me a peck on the cheek and thanked me for all I had done for her.
I hope, despite her having a negative first experience of hospital care due to various cancellations, I demonstrated that I cared and made her feel valued.
Katie Ball is a 3rd year adult nursing student at Manchester University.