I honestly can’t remember much, other than spending every night reading and revising for my placement in A&E and our upcoming three-hour written exam. We were given three patient scenarios and had to choose two to focus on. I chose one I felt would be sepsis and the other which was haemorrhage, which I assumed would lead to hypovolaemic shock. Days and nights were spent reading about the kidneys and inflammatory markers and wishing I was essentially dead.
Our critical care placements start, and I was thrilled to have been allocated to A&E with two friends from my tutor group. We all got into the swing of night shifts and long days, and on more than one occasion we helped each other by swapping areas if we knew the other hadn’t had a chance to see a particular condition. For example, I always seemed to get patients in the middle of a STEMI (a heart attack) rock up to resus, and while we would send these patients to our sister hospital, it was vital to see how the condition presented. If I knew a student was on shift and hadn’t seen one before, I’d run to get her so she could see what was happening. And they did the same for me.
In the middle of our placement, great timing there, we were given a week off to revise and sit two exams, a two-hour multiple-choice bioscience and pathophysiology exam, and the dreaded three-hour exam. Two of my uni friends spend three days before our exams literally sitting at my dining table revising, challenging each other, and researching everything and anything we thought might come up. Many Domino’s pizzas and Blue Sparks (who can lit afford Red Bull tho) later, we left the night before the exam and hoped we’d done enough.
On the day, we all walked into the sports hall and I was flooded with memories of sitting my GCSEs in 2002. The exam was fine, though. I knew as soon as the bell rang for pens down that I had done enough to pass. I honestly wouldn’t have felt that way without my fellow students helping me out, and I’ve realised much of the course needs that teamwork to make it easier.
After our week of exams, we went back to placement to finish off. I spoke to my mentor who said she’d love to have me work in A&E when I graduate, but I know my heart lies elsewhere. Placement over, it was time to relax.
We submitted our practice assessment documents and got the results from our exams. Twenty full working days of waiting, to see I’d passed with flying colours, and so had all my uni buddies. One friend is leaving the course as she’s adding another little one to her family, and we’ve heard of more student nurses quitting before third year. Our cohort really is getting much smaller.
I decided it was time to treat myself too and went full on blonde!
Although my graded placements are over, and I have passed my second year, I still have to complete enough hours to satisfy the NMC’s requirements and be offered a PIN after I graduate. So I was allocated a two-week placement with a health visiting community team in a little village area outside the city I live in, and another two-week placement with the diabetes clinical nurse specialists.
I enjoyed the former, it was lovely working with new mums and tiny infants, but the community driving drained me. Many times, the cases weren’t suitable for a student to attend as there was neglect and violence involved, so I made the most of researching developmental behaviour and learning theory. It was great being able to pick the brains of some incredibly talented health visitors.
I was annoyed at being given the diabetes CNS placement. Diabetes is boring, right? Wrong. I enjoyed it incredibly so. The team were fabulous, and they really had autonomy to get on with their job. I witnessed nurses and medical teams chatting about treatment plans and devising new ways to help patients. What an experience!
Annual leave! I was allocated the first annual leave block which was annoying as I spent it working knowing I was heading back to uni and then from my last placement going right into year three without a break. Still, it was a nice summer.
To fill more time for the NMC, I was given a four week renal placement, but sadly I could only complete a week before I was signed off sick due to some health issues. Honestly, the four weeks would have been a bit of a drag as even nurses and HCAs need to be specially trained to work with dialysis patients. Still, I learnt a lot about the renal system (flashbacks to RAAS). It was at this point I started to decide maybe nursing isn’t for me. I’ve loved my study so far, but by the end of year two I was frustrated at the lack of autonomy nurses have in the UK. We’re restricted in practice and a lot of nursing is so old hat, change will take a long time to process.
More on that later. I ended second year with a sick note, more experience, and the fire to carry on. One more year to go!