Nursing Times blogger Clare Aubrey wonders whether the current perception of student nurses does them justice.
As I finished my second placement the other day on a coronary care unit, it occurred to me just how far I’d come from being that nervous, little starter at university just 7 months ago. However, it also got me thinking about the variety of perceptions that are out there, especially when you are just a lowly first year. I personally have been lucky enough to have two brilliant mentors who have challenged me and allowed me to show initiative where I can but I have also met several other members of staff who would not give a first year such treatment.
One student I met was told that she could not perform certain tasks because she was “only a first year”, whereas another was told she should only concern herself with personal care during her first year. I have certainly never had any problem with involving personal care in my learning, especially as I have no background in healthcare and so feel it is an area where I could learn a lot. In fact, on my first placement, I specifically spent time with a very competent healthcare assistant just to learn skills and good habits. However, I can not help feeling a bit put out by the suggestion that personal care is all we can expect to be involved in during our first year.
This seems like a tricky subject and I know all about the ‘too posh to wash’ debate that continues to rage. I personally have no issue with performing any aspect of care that is needed by the patient at any time. I have bed bathed patients, served meals, cleaned dentures and been on the nice end of elimination needs but I still recognise that my time on placement is educational and I also have to consider my nursing skills and clinical skills within that.
I do feel like students can be a little underestimated at times and that perhaps potential is not always considered as it is too easy to box us into categories, i.e. first year, ex-healthcare assistant, etc… Whilst students don’t have much experience and experience does count for a lot, especially in such an evidence-based practice, the brilliant thing about nursing is that it attracts a variety of backgrounds and really brings together a range of people with different life skills and experience.
I myself come from a background of teaching English and so, although not immediately obvious as relevant experience, I bring with me maturity as well as communication skills, organisational skills, documentation skills and many others. I would just like to think that my potential and countless other first years’ potential will be seen by others and we can become a part of the team without being dismissed just for our status and lack of experience. Many of us have a lot to offer and we would like to be able to show what we can really do.