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

My 2018 goals

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3 days into 2018 and I finally have the chance to do this post! I’ve set myself a few goals for the following year, a couple of which centre around self care (something I am guilty of neglecting more than once in 2017 🙈).

⭐️ I have always loved reading and find it a good way to relax. I have set myself the goal of reading 52 books in 2018, I have a bookshelf full of books I just haven’t had chance to read yet so I’m hoping to get through all of those. I have downloaded the Goodreads app to keep track of the books I’ve read and want to read. These are the books I purchased over Christmas:

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⭐️ Every day in January on Twitter, I will be posting something that has made me feel positive that day. I can often focus on the negative feelings around situations instead of concentrating on the positive ones. I’m hoping by doing this post everyday it will encourage me to be more positive about things. I’ll be using #Januarypositivity to collect my posts together if you’d like to follow them!

⭐️ In February, first year comes to an end. My goal regarding this is to pass my first year hub placement which then allows me to progress into second year. I received good feedback at my mid-point interview so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a pass 🤞🏻

⭐️ During first year, I received grades of 70% and above on all my assignments. I’m hoping to continue this throughout second year when the grades start to count towards my degree classification. I’ve heard some horror stories about second year from other student nurses but I’m looking forward to being back at uni and starting some new modules.

⭐️ I plan to take more time for me this year, I am guilty of putting uni and work first, often working more hours than I should around university. I find it difficult to switch off from uni/work and 10 months in I still don’t have the work/uni/life balance sorted 🙈 I have a brilliant partner who is very supportive but I sometimes feel that I neglect him for uni/work so I want to make more time for him throughout 2018 as well.

⭐️ I love following the slimming world plan and find it fits in well with uni/placement so I’m hoping to lose at least 4st following the plan throughout 2018.

⭐️ I often find people take advantage of my kindness and willingness to help, I want to make more time for the friends who make the effort with me and rid myself of some of the ‘toxic’ friendships I have encountered in 2017.  2018 will be the year that I learn to say no and treat people the way that they treat me.

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Let me know what your 2018 goals are ❤️

Love,

T x

Confidence

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If you had to honestly talk about how much confidence you have in yourself and your abilities, how would you ‘rate’ yourself?

I have next to no actual confidence in myself right now, every day I doubt my ability to complete this degree and get the grades I am hoping to achieve. I am well renowned for putting a lot of pressure on myself and anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am often very hard on myself when it comes to academic work (well most areas of my life actually!) I don’t know where this pressure comes from and I often wonder if it has something to do with me not having a relationship with my mum. By that I mean constantly trying to prove to myself that I am good at what I want to do and can succeed. I have a supportive partner, a close relationship with my Nanna who could not be prouder of me and a brilliant support network of friends but I still doubt myself.

We recently took an exam, I revised for weeks before and felt that I had done enough for a good mark. I opened the exam paper and was happy to see questions that I had revised for and knew the answers to. Then a table appeared that I had not looked at in revision and my confidence just disappeared. It threw me for the rest of the exam. I walked out of that exam convinced I had failed and would need to resit. Thankfully, we were on placement for the three weeks leading up to the results being published so I didn’t have a lot of spare time to sit worrying about it. The results were published and I achieved 88%. Instead of being very happy that I had achieved over my target of 70%, I was beating myself up about the 12 marks I had lost.

This certainly isn’t a new reaction from me, I finished my access course with 42 distinctions and 3 merits. You know what the one thing I focused on was? The 3 merits and why I had been too stubborn to ask for help to make sure I understood the subject. Even now, I’m writing assignments and reading them thinking ‘I’ll be lucky if this is even 40%’. I’m not the kind of person who can say that I’m good at something and actually believe it. I know that I possess the skills to be a good nurse, many of which have been gained from my care background. Despite people encouraging me and complementing me on my skills I still have doubts every day. I’m hoping that receiving some more assignment grades back will rebuild my confidence and help me to have less doubts about myself.

Do any of you have similar thoughts? What do you do to try to stop the doubts?

Love,

T x

Advanced Learner Loans

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Due to me being over 24 when I enrolled on my Access course, I was able to apply for funding through Student Finance England called the 24+ learner loan.

From August 2016, there have been some changes made to the loans and I thought I would provide some information on these for anyone looking to apply.

The 24+ loan is now known as the Advanced Learner loan and is available to anyone aged 19+.  You are able to apply for up to 4 loans, including more than one at the same time. You are also able to apply for a loan to take the same level qualification even if you already have a qualification at this level.

There are a number of criteria you must meet to be eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan but one of the most important is that the course must result in a level 3,4,5 or 6 qualification.

You need to apply and be accepted for a place at your chosen education provider before you can apply for the loan. You will need a letter from the college confirming the funding amount, which you then send onto Student Finance with your application details.

I found the application process really easy, I had to provide forms of id because I hadn’t had any previous funding but I was sent these back quickly after my application was processed.

You can find full details of the changes and eligibility criteria here:

https://www.gov.uk/advanced-learner-loan/overview

Love,

T x