Becoming a nurse isn't all smooth sailing ~ Year 1 Experiences

For the past year I have been studying to become a nurse at a red brick university in the north west. Now whilst some people may say it's a doddle, it can be quite challenging at times. 

I spend half my year in university attending lectures, tutorials as well as exams, essays and completing portfolio work. The other half of the year I spent out in placement which can be within the hospital or community setting. 

Now being back in university is great, it's a 9-5 day (which often becomes a 9-4 day) and I also get to learn the theory side of new skills and be able to practice safely. However with being in university comes the academic side of training, I have a lot more reading to do to start. We are also encouraged to do a couple of hours of reading on topics we're learning/conditions/drugs a night. There is obviously also a lot more notes and exam/essay prep. 

Even whilst on placement we still have reach certain milestones in key areas to enable us to pass that side of it, we also need to complete reflections on events/training we attend/areas that will help when we go for interviews as registered nurses (e.g. conflict resolution). My university also give us a skills inventory that we have to get signed off on about 30 different skills in each year, with each year we become increasingly closer to being fully autonomous.

Now it's worth mentioning that each university splits the amount of weeks at a time in placement. In my first year my university gave us two long 12-week placements, one around Christmas and one in the summer. 

For my first ever placement I spent it on a busy surgical ward of a hospital. The ward I was placed on was set out in a several bays made up of 6 beds with a few side rooms/isolation rooms at the end. Each bay also had doors that could be closed to reduce noise levels. I got to spend the first two weeks getting to know the day-to-day run of the ward and the very basics of nursing care. This meant a lot cleaning, tolieting and filling out nutrition, fluid balances and positional charts which I found completely invalueable. Being on such a busy ward suited me perfectly and I also always found something I could be doing from making sure people had enough water in their jugs/asking if they wanted any hot drinks to giving the patients areas around their bed a wipe down. I also found that visiting times could be used to further my drug knowledge by discussing them with other students on the ward as well my mentor or other staff nurses.

My only downside whilst on placement was that when I started placement I found out that I am allergic to latex and vinyl which meant due to having to go for testing and getting my health clearance/report from occupational health to allow my placement to get me latex and vinyl-free aseptic gloves. This meant for the first five weeks I wasn't allowed to practice any aseptic tasks like dressing changes and taking out drains and could only observe my mentor or other nurses doing these tasks.

Whilst spending 12 weeks on a surgical ward, I completed my fair share of night shifts. Actually I spent half my placement onights, which had it's good and bad sides. A good part of being onights meant that I got plenty of practice of drugs rounds and administrating injections, I could also get plenty of revision and work completed as nights are obviously a lot quieter. The one downside was due to it being quieter you didn't get a lot of practice with other skills like dressing changes, bathing and cleaning. I did get chance to have a practice go at mixing up IV drugs under the supervision of my mentor to help me when we progress to learning more on that side of it, it also helped with knowing the different solutions for IV drugs.

Whilst on this 12 week placement, I also got the opportunity to spend a week on a urology ward which was a great experience. I got the chance to practice administrating injections as my 'hub' ward didn't have a frequent amount of injections in the morning medication rounds. Whilst being on urology I had plenty of practice of isolation infection control as for the week I was placed in a area made up of 11 side rooms meaning you have to go through the whole hand washing and the putting on and taking off your gloves and apron when you go in and come out of each side room. It also gave me a better understanding of the urinary system as well as the conditions that can effect it like cancer, haematuria and kidney failure. 

My second placement consisted of another 12 week placement with the district nurses (this ones however was 12 weeks straight, I didn't get it broken up by holiday) and a week spent with the health visitors. 

Surprisingly working in the community was a lot more tiring than just working in a hospital. My university required me to complete 37.5 hours a week (that is the same as a full time job) I also had my part-time job as well = me working 6 days a week with no room to be off or get sick!! I personally felt because of having to do 9-5, 5 days a week I felt it to be exhausting where as I could easily do 3 full 12 shifts fine in first placement. 

Being with the district nurses was a great experience, it was more focused on palliative care, leg ulcer dressings pressure area checks and the occasional equipment check. Although it could be seen as a bit depressing working with patients that were very end of life, it was invaluable to see and experience and it was great to be able to care and help with any needs they had. 

I also learnt more about drugs on this placement as I got used to the end of life drugs that are prescribed and I got familiar with drug families and names from completing sets of notes and having to complete the medication sheets and filling out what they were required for. 

Half way through my placement with the district nurse's I spent a week with the health visitors in the community. I got to see the different tests they complete at reviews to check that children are meeting their milestones and it also got to see how they work out the percentiles for things such as weight, length/height and head circumference. Whilst I was with them, they sent me to a centre they refer people to regularly which was a children's centre where parents and children could go and interact and play with others, the parents could also take classes to further their skills or allow them to take further accredited courses. I also got to meet with a liaison officer at a local hospital who liaised with other services if there was any issues like child protection or if it involved children that were maybe undernourished or ill-housed. 

One thing I will pass on from my first year is - Yes you may only have to pass this year but if you rest on your laurels and don't take the time to complete work or revision as soon as it comes if you get sick or mix up your dates it can often mean a resit. Plan your time and get organised but leave some time for yourself and your life!

On a final note, I found out this morning that I have officially passed my first year and start my second year at the end of September!!

Speak to you guys soon

Danielle Levy

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