Guys, how has it been so long since I last blogged? Considering this lil place has been running for eight years, I can’t believe life has been so busy I haven’t had the time or inclination for writing. This is the first post since the new year, and what a year it’s been.
The fact I’ve not been around should give you some idea of how my second year at uni as a student nurse has been. I’ve not been social at all – I can’t remember the last time I went out, preferring to sit indoors with a glass of wine and my nursing books. It’s tested me and my cohort to our limits. So, why the challenge? Let me run through the sequence of events…
September seems like a lifetime ago now. The start of module three – our Contemporary Challenges module – was a whirlwind of notes, refreshers and skills sessions all designed to focus on long-term conditions. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I care too much about long-term conditions. I find them incredibly frustrating to study and even worse to manage in practice. I know I’m not a paragon of health but I can imagine I’d get incredibly frustrated dealing with people who refuse to change habits that could kill them and suffer the consequences of their poor life choices. I, of course, treat everyone with compassion and I totally respect their right to smoke/drink/sex themselves to death if that’s their desire. But it’s not the branch of nursing I want to take my career.
We’re given our exam details, a 4,000-word critique on a health promotion topic of our choice. I chose oral cancer and the implications of late diagnosis, purely as it’s a topic I’m familiar with. The essay is dull, long-winded and I’m not sure I fully understand the difference between descriptive and analytical writing versus comparing and contrasting and all that malarkey but I get a good start on it, fully knowing it’s due at the end of the year and we have placement starting imminently.
Placement begins. I was allocated a ward-based surgical placement, so not actually in theatre but handing pre- and post-surgical patients. I was of course, incredibly nervous to start – the ward I’m on has a reputation for being fast-paced and fierce. But I get stuck in and the first six weeks fly by. I find my feet quickly and gain a good reputation with my fellow students and nurses. Many times I’m asked if I’m a third-year student on a management placement, which secretly I love. I can’t believe how I adapt and learn new techniques. I dress wounds and remove sutures. I help with fluid challenges and critical care outreach teams when they’re screening for sepsis. I forge a good reputation among the junior doctors and other allied health staff we work with closely, and I honestly don’t want to leave.
With annual leave beckoning and some great feedback from my mentor, who’s been one of the best nurses I’ve worked with, I start to focus on my essay. It’s just not where my heart lies, though, and I struggle to find the willpower to carry on with it. This is where second-year really starts to take its toll as me and my cohort start to regret even coming to university in the first place. I’m told by lots of nurses who attended the same uni that they all felt the same in module three, and I knuckle down to get this fresh hell over and done with.
Annual leave ends and it’s back to placement. I really step up my game now, and I start to get given more responsibility by my mentor who clearly trusts me more than I trust myself. I get stuck in with bed management and transfer of patients as well as delegating tasks to the first year students who I’m also on placement with. All things I don’t technically need to start doing as a second-year student but that will definitely help me in my third year. I start booking extra shifts on the ward too as I can’t get enough of the team, the work and the patients. I realise now I’m not a medical nurse, I’m a surgical nurse, and I start to look at my career path with that in mind. I know I’ll never be a surgeon after talking with some of the junior doctors I’m working with daily, but one SHO suggests looking into a surgical practitioner course as a Masters degree, after getting some experience under my belt.
I’m in the last few days of my placement and I really don’t want to leave. My mentor has been a dream and I genuinely know I’ll never work with someone so professional and capable as her. The senior sister has been a great example of getting stuck in too – I’ve never experienced someone as firm and tough but so lovely at the same time. I finish my practice assessment document and enjoy my last few days relaxing knowing I’ve passed placement. We head back to uni to start our next module: Critical Care. It’s a mix of anatomy and physiology, with pathophysiology thrown in. We’re now learning those little skills that see nurses simply look at a patient and know something’s wrong.
It’s now March, and placement is over. We’ve been back at uni for a month and we’re all getting tired and drained. This module has kicked us and beaten us up, it’s been so tough. We have a three-hour exam coming up and a second two-hour A&P exam as well as our critical care placement – mine’s in A&E, so that’s majors, minors, triage and resus. It’s been a tough few months, but I’ve not given up yet.
Nursing is difficult. Uni is hard. Placement is going to be emotional, I know I’m going to see things I’ll never be able to erase from my memory. I’m determined to sign off some of the skills I’ve been avoiding, such as CPR and last offices. I’ll get through it.
Seriously though send booze.