Nursing isn’t all about grades…

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‘Your grades do not define the kind of nurse you are’ and ‘You do not need a first class degree to be a good nurse’ are some of the things I see on twitter on a day-to-day basis.

You know what? They are correct.

Grades do not define the kind of nurse you are out in practice, in fact some people are very open about ‘struggling’ academically but thriving out on placement. We all have our strengths. You also do not need a first class degree to be a nurse, completing the degree is what ultimately matters not the classification.

BUT….here is where I harp on about my own opinion on this subject.

I often hear ‘you cannot be good academically and out on placement’. WRONG. You can be good at both, without blowing my own trumpet I am reasonably strong academically and receive fantastic feedback on placement, something which is similar with many student nurses I know. People need to stop pushing this narrative where you have to be good at one or the other. You can be both, please stop saying that people who are good academically make rubbish nurses. And yes I have seen this more than once. It is simply not true.

Grades do not define you as a nurse. BUT there is no shame in owning the fact that you want to achieve a first class degree. If you want this and you know that you are capable of it, do not let anyone shame you into thinking you should not be talking openly about this. For those of us who already have a future career plan mapped out, it is important for us to achieve the highest degree classification we can, just as I’m sure it’s important to many others. I will not be made to feel embarrassed about admitting this because I will have worked hard to gain whatever classification I receive. We should all be striving to achieve the best that we can do, not just aiming for 40% ‘as long as we pass’.

People all have different academic levels, I can write a good essay but that doesn’t mean that I am more intelligent or better than another student nurse. I often feel ‘inferior’ in lessons because there are members of my cohort who know more about the clinical side than I do, based purely on our different placement experiences. Someone may know lots about respiratory conditions, having spent 13 weeks on there. I know very little because my placements have not included that experience…however, give me a cardiac situation and I’ll be on it. We shouldn’t feel inferior to our other student nurse colleagues just because they received a ‘better’ grade or know more about a condition than we do, we should be sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other. Acknowledging each other’s strengths and pushing each other kicking and screaming to the end 😂

We shouldn’t be knocking people down who have a plan in mind and are honest about this. We should be supporting everyone around us, regardless of end goal or future plans.

Nursing isn’t defined by grades…but that won’t stop me being here striving for that first class honours degree 👍

Love,

T x

You must work on a ward…..

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This age-old narrative is rearing its head again and again. ‘I want to work in the community but people say I must work on a ward for at least a year’, ‘I want to specialise as a newly qualified nurse (NQN) but some say I should work on a ward first to hone my skills’ and such nonsense is heard and seen every single day in university or on social media. I feel that statements like this are dampening the dreams of student nurses for no real reason.

NEWS FLASH!

There is no reason to work on a general medicine ward first before moving on to another post if you do not want to. Yes you will develop your skills as a NQN and build your confidence during your preceptorship. BUT…the skill sets used in areas such as the community, in a GP surgery, theatres, a nursing home or in specialist areas such as critical care are very different to the skill set used on a general medicine ward. Contrary to belief, you will not ‘de-skill’ going into these areas!

So you spend a year on a general medicine ward and then move to the area you actually want to work in…and guess what? It’s like starting over again. You need to develop all the new skill sets and hone the ones you already have to your new area. Why not cut out the middle man and develop these from the beginning of your time as a NQN?

We spend a long and hard three years at university…why should we ‘settle’ for an area we know we don’t actually want to work in when we have fallen in love with an area that is right up our street? As a student nurse, or even a qualified nurse, the world is our oyster and we can apply to work in most areas now as a NQN, so if you have dreams of working in an area like critical care or a GP surgery there is nothing stopping you. There are more and more areas accepting applications from NQN now and I can only see this increasing in the future. If general medicine is your thing that’s fab, but for a lot of us working on a ward is not what we want to do and that’s fine as well. You are at work for a large portion of your week, why spend the time unhappy?

I am often criticised for wanting to go straight into critical care, I hear things like ‘it’s too specialised you’re not a good enough nurse as a NQN to work in such a specialist area’ or ‘why would you want to start in a place like that when you could spend a year on a ward first’. Working on a general ward is not for me, I’ve known this for a long time and it won’t change. Yes critical care is still a ward, but its a different kind of routine and style of nursing to general medicine wards.

Don’t be afraid to talk about where you would like to work, if someone attempts to shoot you down don’t feel like you need to explain yourself. The most important thing is finding the job that suits you and if this is in an area other than a ward, hold your head up high and know that you are making the right choice for you. Ultimately this is all that matters.

Nursing is not one size fits all and that’s the real beauty of it.

Love,

T x

Let’s talk about second year blues

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If you’d asked me in the summer months about second year blues, I would have told you that it was a little bit of a ‘myth’ and that if you kept yourself organised you would be fine. I even wrote a post containing tips to survive second year . My first module of year 2 was Research Methods and is often described as the worst module of the whole degree at my university by previous cohorts. I fell in love with the subject and wondered what everyone had been making all the fuss about. I achieved 95% in the assignment and genuinely thought I was set for the year…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Autumn came and the second year blues hit me like a train. I lost all motivation to complete work and began leaving assignments until close to the deadline date, something I don’t do because I get stressed easily and not being organised is a trigger for me. My assignments were not up to my usual standard because of this and still I sat confused and upset when the results were released and I hadn’t achieved anything like the results I was used to. Instead of spurring me on to complete work early like I usually do, a rubbish result (or so I thought at the time) knocked me for six and I continued with no motivation wondering what the point was. I completed another assignment and submitted, knowing it wasn’t my best work but believing it was good enough to stay within my targets. Results were released and I was ready to quit university altogether that afternoon,  it was my worst result to date and the feedback felt brutal. I spent that weekend in what felt like a hole, at the end of my tether with this whole experience and genuinely thinking about leaving. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had more negative days than positive days in year 2, I can probably count the number of truly positive days on one hand if I’m being brutally honest.

Second year blues are real and should be discussed more. It’s not enough to preach on and on about positivity, staying positive etc, because it really isn’t as simple as that. It’s hard to remain positive when every single day at university feels like a knock to your confidence, when you leave placement everyday wondering if you will ever really know enough to be a nurse and when every result makes you question whether you’re even intelligent enough to be doing this degree. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve cried in the car park after a placement shift before setting off to go home, just from doubting myself and a decision I’d made that day or because I didn’t know something that I really feel I should by now.

My first placement of second year was amazing, I spent 6 weeks with the best team and felt like I knew what I was doing even though it was out of my comfort zone. I thrived in an area that is extremely specialised and that I was terrified of before I started. When I began my second placement of year 2, it all unravelled. I like being out of my comfort zone, but this was a whole other level. I knew nothing. And that’s not me being dramatic, I genuinely knew nothing. I was an adult branch student nurse, walking into neonatal having never really held a baby before, let alone cared for one for a 12.5 hour shift. Everything was so different to adult branch, it was like starting the degree again with no previous experience at all. I enjoyed the placement and my mentors were fantastic, but I spent the four weeks thinking I wasn’t showing my full potential because it was so different to what I’m used to and it completely threw me. I started my third placement of year 2 having lost all the confidence I’d gained from my critical care placement and not even knowing if I wanted to be a nurse anymore.

Year 2 has just felt like one knock after another and I will be glad to see the back of it. I have 8 weeks left of placement before year 3 starts and I’m excited to get back onto the ward and gain some confidence back ready for year 3. In all honesty, I still don’t feel 100% myself and if it wasn’t for certain people this year I don’t think I would still be at university now because I couldn’t have coped without them.

If you feel like you’re struggling at any point, reach out to someone. It doesn’t need to be a lecturer, it can be a friend or someone in your cohort. Even find someone on social media who you can confide in, don’t bottle it up like I did. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was struggling and keeping quiet for so long probably hasn’t helped the way I’ve felt for the past 4/5 months. I don’t think the ‘positivity brigade’ help at all, as much as they may think they are doing good, it’s hard to go on social media and see positive things all the time and no one talking about how hard things can actually be. I’m not saying people need to be negative nellies all the time either, but it’s about time we all started to show the real aspects of our experiences within this degree. Not just the highlight reel of achievements.

Love,

T x

The mentor that changed everything

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This post does not by any means suggest that my other mentors haven’t been amazing, because they have. I have been extremely lucky that every mentor I have worked with up to now have taught me so much and have always been fantastic to work with. There is just one mentor who changed everything for me.

Rewind back to the end of year 1, to me receiving my first placement allocation for year 2 and seeing HDU/ITU. I hadn’t been on an acute ward in my training yet and I was starting my acute experiences in one of the scariest places, A&E being another one that fills me with dread.

I spent weeks panicking (a common occurrence with me as you will know if you’ve read my other blogs 😂) and worrying that I really did not know enough to be trusted with this kind of placement. I was going from year 1, in a placement that I was actually quite confident in due to previous experience to my first acute ward. I did not have chance to visit the unit before starting placement so I walked in ‘blind’. The first thing I saw was all the machines and I must have looked terrified because one of the NQNs said ‘It’s not that scary once you get started, don’t look so terrified you will be fine!’. I met my mentor and she took me into handover. From the first moment she was welcoming and kind, I instantly warmed to her and felt a little less nervous. I picked up the handover sheet and was convinced it was in another language, I didn’t understand half of the actual handover and worried that this would happen every morning.

I started my placement with 2 weeks on HDU, so the ratio of patients is 2:1. My mentor started by showing me the crash trolley and the airway trolley. We then moved onto the bedside checks and the observation charts. By lunchtime, I was feeling confident enough to record the observations myself and my mentor was happy for me to do so. The next week passed so quickly and my mentor knew so much, the knowledge she had blew me away and I remember thinking to myself that I would never know all the things that she knew. At the end of my second week, I had 2 weeks annual leave for Easter. When I returned, I was on ITU.

I asked over and over if I was doing ok, if I was where I should be and was doing everything I should be. I was doubting myself as I always do and thought I didn’t know anything. My mentor encouraged me all the time to complete skills that she knew I could do, she had faith in me and taught me things that have since come in very handy on my other placements. The day she told me I was having my own level 2 patient in ITU, I remember thinking no, no way I’m not good enough. This is not happening I will mess this up big time. And guess what? I didn’t! I felt confident in the bedside checks and the observations, she provided me with support and encouragement and actually made me believe that I can do this. The next few days passed and I became more confident with everything, using my own initiative to complete tasks that I could do. Then my mentor said I was taking care of a level 3 patient. WHAT?! No, no thank you I do not know what to do and the ventilator scares me to death 😂 Of course I wasn’t on my own I had her supervision but I was allowed to complete tasks by myself, keep track of medication times and assess changes to care based on ABGs. She pushed me to make decisions based on my own knowledge without ever making me feel ‘belittled’ if I didn’t know anything or needed to check something.

Before this placement, I had absolutely no faith in myself at all and thought I wouldn’t make it as a nurse. This mentor completely changed my way of thinking. She showed me so much support and encouragement that it was impossible to continue doubting myself. She taught me so much and I genuinely think that if I become even half the nurse she is, I will be very lucky. She constantly made sure that I was feeling comfortable and gave me every learning opportunity, involving me in ward rounds and procedures such as intubations and tracheostomy procedures. I felt welcomed from day 1 and completely fell in love with the place, which is partly due to my mentor and the faith she had in me. The feedback she gave me made me cry and I always look back on it if I’m doubting myself and feeling low. To reiterate, I can say that I’m very lucky and all my mentors have been fantastic and I’ve learnt so much from them all, but there was something different about this woman. In 6 weeks, she took me from a nervous second year student believing she would never be a nurse – to a semi-confident (only because I’ll never be fully confident!) second year knowing that she could do this and that there was a good chance that she would qualify! I now feel slightly jealous of anyone who receives that placement in the time we have left on the course 😂

Let me know any stories you have of mentors like this!

Love,

T x

Letter to my mentor – Part 1

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Will I develop enough to be signed off at the end of the year? Will I be good enough at the skills I need to be good at? What if I walk into the placement area and suddenly forget everything I have been taught at university and everything I have learnt in my previous care work experience? What if I don’t actually know what I’m meant to know? How will I know what dressings need to be used on which wounds? What if I can’t hear the Korotkoff sounds during a manual blood pressure? These are just a few of the questions running through my mind right now.

I am one week away from starting my first placement with you and I am terrified. I have been for a visit so I know the ward, where to park and where to find everything I need on the first day. This hasn’t helped to stop the nerves though. I am a worrier, I worry about every little thing and as you can imagine, I’m in bits right now!

I am a member of a few different student nurse forums across social media and I have read some stories of students not getting on with their mentor. So of course I am worrying that we won’t get on and that you will think I don’t know anything. I don’t think I will pick the routine of the ward up quick enough and already I am worrying about not passing the year even though I have only just started.

I have care experience, 7 years to be exact, and I fear this will make me come across as over-confident in my own abilities, when in fact I am not confident in myself at all. I believe that I know how to build relationships with patients and how to communicate with them, but I do not want you to think that this means I think I know it all.

I constantly worry about what happens if a patient becomes unwell and I don’t know what to do in this situation. Through the clinical skills sessions I know about NEWS, emergency buzzers and how to escalate concerns but what if a patient becomes unwell quickly and I am the only person around? Will I know what to do in that situation, will auto-pilot take over or will I freeze?

I have 16 weeks of placement here and I am concerned I won’t fit in with the team. 16 weeks is a long time if you do not feel like you fit in. I am naturally a quiet person and like to get to know people before I relax, I worry that I will come across as disinterested and not wanting to fit in when actually I am just really shy with new people.

Will you enjoy having me as a student? I wonder how I will fare compared to other students who have been on the ward, which is ridiculous because it really doesn’t matter as long as I am concentrating on my own development. Will I come across as eager to learn or annoyingly enthusiastic about everything? No one wants to come across as that student who asks too many questions (which I will learn later on is definitely not a thing, ask away!) but on the other hand I love learning and want to gain as much knowledge as I possibly can and that means tapping into your many years experience and stealing bits of your knowledge.

I want to get involved in everything, spend insight days with other members of the MDT but what if they don’t want to have a student observing their every move? I don’t want to feel like I am imposing on them and stopping them doing their job correctly.

I have given out medication for many years in the community and in a care home, but I know how clumsy I can be and I am pretty sure I will drop tablets on the floor because I feel flustered and nervous so please bear with me for the first few times whilst I am slow and getting used to the ward routine of administering medication.

Giving injections is something I haven’t had to do in my previous experience as these were always administered by community nurses. I am scared that my technique will be rubbish and that I will hurt patients, which is the last thing I want to be doing! A real human is very different to an orange/piece of plastic skin and an orange cannot scream when the needle comes near them 😂

I said that I didn’t want an elderly rehab ward as my first placement because I work in care and wanted something completely different. On the other side, I am pleased that I have been allocated somewhere that will feel familiar, where I can develop new skills whilst refining the skills I already possess. I know how to help elderly patients and have had extensive dementia training, I know this will come in handy but I also know there is plenty more to be learnt!

It’s the night before placement and I am just about to go to bed. My bag is packed and my uniform is laid out ready for the 5 am start. Let me tell you that is one part I am not looking forward to, 16 weeks of 5 am starts 😭 I have even washed my hair so you know I mean business! I worry that even with setting off 1.5 hours early that I will be late, I live an hour away and I am praying that there is no traffic so I can arrive on time.

I hope to write another letter at the end of my placement experience dispelling all these fears and describing how you have helped me to develop as a future nurse.

Love,

T x

Common myths you may hear as a student nurse

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1. It doesn’t matter what degree classification you get. 

In the grand scheme of things, it’s true it doesn’t matter what classification you get. As long as you pass and are signed off as competent, you will qualify and receive a pin. BUT if you want to go on and do further study like a masters, the chances are you will need a 2:1 at least. This is where degree classification does matter. There is no shame in aiming high and wanting to achieve something which you know you are capable of.

2. Every day will be amazing and you will love every minute.

This might happen. But there’s also the chance that you will have ‘off’ days or a negative experience which will make you doubt/question everything. I know, I’ve been there. I didn’t talk about it and it made me doubt my decision for a long time. I felt useless because I was struggling and everyone around me seemed to be loving every minute. If you feel this way, talk about it. Others will feel the same you just don’t realise it.

3. You must work on a general ward for at least a year before specialising.

NO.

Want to work in the community? Go for it. Critical care? You can. A&E? DO IT! If you know you want to work in an area that isn’t a general ward and they accept NQN (which more and more areas do now) then go where you know your heart lies. Why ‘settle’ for a job you know isn’t your first choice when your dream job is waiting for you to grab with both hands?! Yes you will learn transferable skills on a general ward, but the skills learnt in other areas are usually very different to the skills learnt on general wards. Each area has its own strengths and skills to be learnt, all of which can be transferred to other areas if you decide to change direction later in your career.

4. You can’t work around your degree.

You can, I do. I HAVE TO. Always put uni/placement/deadlines above picking up a shift. And always be careful of doing too much and ‘burning out’. Your uni may have rules about how many hours you can do a week, so if you have a 30 hour uni week you may only be able to work 18 hours around that. You don’t need to work in healthcare, it’s beneficial to keep care skills up to date but you spend enough time on placement that this shouldn’t be an issue. You can have any part-time job as long as it’s flexible enough to fit around uni/placement.

5. You can’t be yourself on social media.

You can. Be mindful of abiding by the code and maintaining professionalism/confidentiality, but if you want to tweet about your favourite tv show or sport then go for it! It’s great to get to know the personalities behind the student nurse ‘tag’ and you can make some wonderful friends through social media and shared interests.

6. You must spend every waking moment reading, researching, working etc.

Yes it’s important to read around assignments and research up coming placements. But you need to remember to take time for yourself as well. See your friends, go to the cinema, go for a run. Something completely unrelated to nursing, give yourself a break regularly. Take care of yourself.

7. Male nurses are gay.

This is one I hear time and time again and it’s simply not true. Yes some male students/nurses will be gay, just like some female students/nurses will be. But there are also many who are not. Don’t assume someones sexuality based on the job they do, its outdated and stereotypical. Plus, someones sexuality is nobody’s business unless they choose to share it with you, assumptions can be damaging and hurtful.

8. Nurses are only nurses because they are not clever enough to be a doctor. 

If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have been a doctor. Many of us are clever enough to be doctors but didn’t want to be. Yes they are both careers within healthcare, but the roles are very different. Gone are the days where nurses are just there to help the doctors, they are recognised in their own right now. The care that nurses provide is just as vital to a patient. It’s insulting to hear someone say you chose your career path because you’re not intelligent enough for another one.

9. Your cohort will be amazing and you will all be friends for life.

Your cohort will be full of people just like you, student nurses trying their hardest to succeed. You will make friends and those friendships may continue after uni. But you will not like everyone. This is the same in any situation in life, yes you will be friendly towards people but you don’t have to become best friends with every person you meet just because they are a student nurse too.

10. You will always be supernumerary.

Now this may not 100% be a myth and in a majority of placement areas you will be supernumerary. Just be aware that if you feel your supernumerary status is not being implemented then you should speak to someone about it. There is a difference between helping HCAs and assisting with the ward routine, and constantly being used as a HCA/extra pair of hands with no learning opportunities or mentor guided time.

11. You cannot be good academically and on placement, it’s one or the other.

I’ve heard this on many occasions and even had it directed towards me more than once. There is no reason you cannot excel in both areas, many people do. It’s another outdated view that you can only be good academically or in practical situations, not both.

Let me know if there are any other myths you have heard!

Love,

T x

Why do I blog?

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I started blogging around 17 months ago and originally I planned to use it as a journal to keep a record of my time at university. I didn’t think that others would be interested in reading my content. After releasing a few posts, I realised that a few people might actually want to read my blog, so I decided to write about things during my time at university that other student nurses may read and find useful for their own journey to becoming a qualified nurse. When I started blogging, there were very few UK based student nurse blogs available to read. Now there are many more available and this is great as everyone has different experiences and placements during their time as a student nurse.

I enjoy blogging as it is a good way to arrange my thoughts and write about the different things I’ve learnt. I like to write posts about the different placements I have so that other students who receive the same placement allocations can start them knowing a little more about what to expect.

My favourite posts to write are my ‘top tips’. I have had a lot of fantastic feedback on these types of posts and I really enjoy collecting my tips and writing them into a post that hopefully other student nurses will find useful. So far I have written top tips on being a first year student nurse, first placement and assignment planning but watch out for more!

Blogging is open to everyone and you can write about whatever you want to (protecting confidentiality and abiding by the NMC code is a must throughout). You can discuss your opinion on current affairs, health related news stories or something you have experienced on placement/at work. Blogging is also a great tool when it comes to reflection, you can write your thoughts down and share them if you feel comfortable to do so. You can write in whatever style you prefer and blogging is very informal compared to academic writing, I’ve found that writing blog posts can give a little bit of a release during assignment writing.

I would encourage student nurses and qualified nurses to blog, there are so many of us out there who would be interested in reading your posts and you may just fall in love with blogging like I have!

Send your blog links for me to follow and let me know why you enjoy blogging!

Love,

T x

Mother’s Day

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Today is a little hard for me. I have spoken to my mum once in 14 years. Most days of the year I’m fine, it’s a distant memory that I have learnt to deal with and get on with. But there’s something about Mother’s Day that makes me feel the same emotions I felt for a long time. Anger. Confusion. Regret. Sadness.

Maybe it’s the constant posts on Facebook and Twitter. This is the society we live in today where every detail of people’s lives are posted, I participate in it so therefore I cannot complain about it. I love to see posts of people celebrating their family, especially of supportive and loving mothers. The posts don’t even make me jealous, envy of family relationships is something I made my peace with many years ago. The feeling I have is regret. Regret that a relationship cannot be retrieved. Regret that I don’t have that relationship with the woman who should want to know every detail about my life and help me through things. Regret that the woman who gave birth to me seems to have forgotten I even exist.

But the thing that keeps me positive on days like today? The relationship I have with my Nanna. She is the most amazing person with so many traits that I see in myself. Strong. Stubborn. Doesn’t listen to good advice 😂 This woman has been there for me my entire life, she became my ‘mum’ when I moved in with her at 16. I would not be where I am or the person I am today without the influence of this woman. And so I find myself thanking my mum actually, because without the relationship issues that exist there, I don’t know if the relationship I have with my Nanna would have developed in the way it did.

Yes I think about what could have been done differently or what would happen in the future if my mum made the effort to try to salvage a relationship. But in all honesty, I have everything I need in my Nanna and don’t feel at a ‘loss’ anymore.

Love,

T x

Self care

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You may hear this term and think what is self care? To me self care is about looking after yourself and making sure you regularly take time to do things that you enjoy. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in a placement/uni and sleep cycle with very little else. It’s important to take time for yourself to recharge and refresh. How can we look after our patients if we don’t look after ourselves first? Here are the things I do for self care 😊

  1. I try to have one day a week where I have no plans and can just relax, catching up on tv or reading a book. This is not always easy around uni/placement/work but I usually have at least an afternoon off.
  2. Taking a long soak in a hot bath with a face mask on. I like to do this as it relaxes me and helps me to destress.
  3. I like to have at least 6 hours sleep on a night as I feel rubbish throughout the next day if I don’t. If I can have more than I do as it gives my body that extra bit of rest!
  4. You are not being selfish if you recognise that you need a day to yourself or you just can’t reply to that text/email right now. There is nothing wrong with taking time out to care for your mental wellbeing, sometimes you need the time away to concentrate on you. Don’t feel guilty if you need to rearrange plans or you turn your phone off for an hour.
  5. Step away from social media. This can sometimes be easier said than done, but even if you just ‘mute’ negative people it can have a positive effect on your social media time and your outlook.
  6. Calling a friend for a quick chat. It really helps to know that support network is there. Talking about things other than uni/placement helps to take my mind off any worries I have as well.
  7. Making plans for the months ahead. I always feel better if I have something to look forward to that isn’t uni/placement. D7B5D714-7624-4A8F-B55F-9F8CB9C4AF06I have a Harry Potter Studios tour, live WWE wrestling show and a live autopsy booked in already for this year 😊.
  8. I enjoy exercise (even though lately I haven’t done enough of it!), it really helps to brighten my mood and makes me feel more energetic afterwards. It is also a good destresser.
  9. Music. I love listening to music and Spotify has been a lifesaver. From cheesy 80s dance to pop punk, there is something on there for every mood.
  10. Gin. Gin is always the best part of self care. Cheers!

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Love,

T x

Too posh to wash?

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I have often seen this expression relating to qualified nurses but in the last few days, I have seen it mentioned when referring to student nurses. I have been in the presence of many student nurses who see the benefits of providing personal care to patients but unfortunately I have also heard student nurses commenting that ‘they are not there to provide personal care as it is not a nurses job.’ These have been very rare occasions and the belief was challenged immediately by qualified nurses.

Providing personal care to patients is one of the first skills we are taught as student nurses and is possibly one of the easiest to perform. Whether it is assisting to wash someone or performing simple mouth care, we can learn so much about the patient. We can use it as an opportunity to check the patients skin integrity and document any changes to pressure areas. It can be used as a chance to have a chat with a patient to determine what kind of clothes they like to wear or how they like to have their hair styled. The patient may even use this time to express any worries or concerns they may have.

I personally believe that assisting with the needs of patients, such as personal care, is one of the fundamental values of nursing and should be cherished as a time to fully get to assess a patient. Maybe this belief comes from my experience as a care assistant and knowing how much performing these tasks means to an individual, but I feel it is a skill that should be honed by student nurses and continued after qualifying. These skills that we are taught within first year must remain central to our job role as students and qualified nurses.

This is often why student nurses on their first placement will be placed with the HCAs for a few weeks, to really develop these care skills before they begin learning the other skills essential to being a nurse. Please do not think that you are missing out on learning opportunities through being with the HCAs, you are learning so much about patient care and the HCAs really are the backbone of any ward. They know their patients inside out and provide important information to the nurses about the patients mental and physical state. A nurse should not feel that it is ‘beneath them’ to be doing tasks that the HCAs would usually be completing.

On a positive note, I really do see the term ‘too posh to wash’ a lot less than I have done in the past and really hope our new generation of student nurses can really help to abolish this term and train of thought.

Love,

T x