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

Second year is the worst….or is it?

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I’ve seen so many posts about how bad second year is and how difficult it can be, I am 6 months into second year now and thought I would share my top tips on how to make it a little more bearable!

  • Start work as soon as you get it. Gather references for the assignments before you start them as this helps when starting to write.
  • Remember how far you have already come. Think about your first day and how much you have learnt/changed since then. Write a list of achievements from year 1 that you can look back on.
  • Plan things throughout the year. I found this helps the time to pass a little quicker if you have things to look forward to.
  • For research modules – make sure you fully understand the terminology as this will help you when completing the assignment.
  • Take everything you hear from previous cohorts about assignments with a pinch of salt, you may really enjoy something that someone else didn’t.
  • Placement pre-reading. Placements will expect you to have a little more knowledge this year so pre-reading is a must.
  • Take on your own patients. Even if it’s only one patient for that day, take responsibility for their care (within the limits of what you can do with mentor supervision). This really helps to build confidence and third year responsibilities won’t seem as daunting if you have been doing them through year 2.
  • If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Your personal tutor, another lecturer, someone on social media. It doesn’t really matter who it is just make sure you open up to someone, don’t try to manage through on your own if you feel you are struggling.
  • Get hold of a book on critical writing and thinking. The step up to level 5 writing can seem huge but it’s really about being able to say why something is done the way it is, wider reading and being critical in your thought process. I can recommend these two:
  • Take time for yourself. This is important in any year but do the things that make you happy. Self care can really help when you’re feeling fed up!
  • Chip away at assignments bit by bit. I start mine as soon as they are available and chip away, doing an hour or 2 a day if that’s the only time I have. Before you know it, the assignment is completed and it’s just the final checks you need to do.
  • Reference as you go! I say this all the time but with critical thinking comes more references, the last thing you want is to get to the end and have to find all 50+ of your references again to get them on your list.
  • Take on board previous feedback from year 1 and speak to lecturers about how to successfully write at level 5, they may have little hints and tips that will help you.
  • If you have to work around university, try to keep at least 1 full day off a week for assignments and yourself. You may even be able to join the bank at your hospital trust now, allowing more flexibility with shifts.
  • Try not to be disheartened if your first result is a drop compared to your first year grades. This can happen with the step up to level 5 writing, ask for guidance and really pay attention to your assignment feedback.
  • Try to save a little money each month, student finance drops in year 3 so saving a little bit during year 2 will help fill the gap.
  • Make sure your referencing is up to scratch, I have found this book really helpful for referencing (there is a website as well). Referencing tools are great but I prefer to create them myself then I can be confident that any errors are down to myself and you actually learn how to reference when you do them yourself.

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  • Keep up with your car maintenance, this may seem obvious but if you use your car a lot for uni and placement, wear and tear can occur faster than through doing normal mileage. The last thing you want is to be sat on the motorway waiting for the AA! (Other breakdown recovery companies are available 😂)
  • Email your assignments to yourself or save them on onedrive/google drive/a USB stick. Again, this may seem obvious but if your computer breaks or your work doesn’t save, you risk losing all the work you have done towards an assignment.
  • Keep in touch with your friends during placement, this kept me going through long shifts and weeks on placement.

Let me know if you have any other good tips for year 2 😘

Love,

T x

My next placement is WHERE?!?

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My last placement was critical care and I’m sure you’ve all seen me banging on about how much I loved it 😂 So I was a little apprehensive about where my next placement would be and how it would compare to critical care. I know we shouldn’t compare placements and I would go into any future placement ready to learn and excited for the opportunity, but when you’ve had a placement as good as my critical care one was, it can be difficult not to worry about what future placement experiences you would receive.

We receive our placement allocations 4 weeks before we are due to start them, so I woke up on Monday morning to log in and check my allocation. I checked the placement and went back to sleep. When I woke up an hour later, I thought I had dreamt what it said. So I logged back on to find I hadn’t imagined it at all. I WOULD BE GOING TO NEONATAL FOR MY NEXT PLACEMENT!! 

Neonatal is somewhere I hadn’t even thought of having a placement, it had crossed my mind for my 4-week elective at the end of year 3 but it is notoriously hard to get as it is a popular choice. To receive it as a spoke placement is fantastic and I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend 4 weeks on neonatal.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because I really am! Having read the student handbook, it appears that a few of the skills learnt within critical care will be transferable to neonatal but there will be a lot of new learning to be done. Plus, the fact that these are little babies and not adults scares me! What if I ‘break’ one of the little babies?! (Now I know this is irrational and I will not be ‘breaking’ any babies 😂 but it is still a worry!) Everything is different, they are so tiny (even full-term babies are tiny) and need caring for in a way that is very different from the adults I have cared for in the past. I will be completely out of my comfort zone here but I was entering critical care, after spending a year in a community hospital.  The idea of looking after critically ill babies in neonatal terrifies me, but the idea of looking after critically ill adults also terrified me and I thrived on that placement.

I don’t have any experience with children as I don’t have my own so it will be a huge learning curve but one that I am very excited for. If you’ve experienced a placement on neonatal, any tips will be gratefully received 😊

Love,

T x

 

 

Receiving a new placement allocation

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February 18th 2018 I was on a night shift on my year 1 hub placement. At midnight, my first placement allocation of year 2 was due to go live. I nervously logged on around 00:30 to find it said access denied! I was so disappointed to not be able to see my placement allocation, it said it was a medical ward but did not have the name of the placement area, at this time I thought it was just mine saying this. I kept refreshing the page throughout the night but it didn’t change. The next day, I realised that all my cohort had the same message. After some emails and phone calls to the placement team from other students, we were told it would go live the next day.

Later on that evening, I saw a Facebook status from someone in my cohort about their placement allocation. I was so nervous to log on again and check as there were a couple of areas I would have preferred not to have been allocated due to them being similar to my first year hub. I logged on to the placement allocation area and it was there.

I HAD BEEN ALLOCATED ITU/HDU FOR 6 WEEKS!!! 🎉🎉

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I was so excited, this was an area I had hoped to receive as a placement but didn’t think I would. After the excitement, the usual doubts set in. I was worried that I would be at a disadvantage having been in a community hospital for first year. I didn’t think I would have the knowledge necessary to have a good placement on an acute ward, especially one as specialist as ITU/HDU. I had two weeks at university between being on placement as a first year and going back to placement as a second year. I wondered how much more knowledge I would be expected to have being a second year on placement.

I walked in on my first day and I was terrified. I felt so overwhelmed, I had no idea what any of the machines were for or how the paperwork was filled in. I was worried I didn’t know an acute ward routine and that I would have a bad placement. My mentor was lovely and put all my worries to rest straight away. They do not expect you to know the machines or the routine as you’ve never been there before. She talked me through the daily checks and morning routine. There was a NQN on my first day as well and she was great at making me realise there’s nothing to be worried about and that even if you’re qualified and choose to work on ITU/HDU, you won’t know everything and it is all a learning curve. During my first shift, comments were made to me about applying to work there once I qualify and these have since been mentioned on my following shifts as well, so I must be doing something right! The feedback from my mentor has been positive and I feel like I know the routine a little more now. I am a quick learner so I seemed to pick up the paperwork side of things quickly and by lunchtime on the first day, I was completing the hourly obs on my own meaning my mentor could concentrate on other areas of patient care.

On my first night shift, I was drawing up a vial of Pabrinex and managed to get it all over the floor and myself! Luckily, my mentor and another staff nurse had a good laugh about it and that put me at ease. They said everyone manages to get it on them once during training, which was a relief to know I wasn’t the only clumsy one! I had 2 weeks on HDU and I am now doing 4 weeks on ITU, I have followed my mentors rotation. At my trust, the staff nurses employed on ITU/HDU do a rotation, they spend 8 weeks on HDU and 16 weeks on ITU.

I seem to have fitted into the team really well and can definitely see myself applying to work there, I just need the job to appear on NHS jobs now 😊

Do you know where you would like to work yet? Let me know!

Love,

T x

Changing years: Expectation vs reality

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Being a student nurse is often about change and particularly transition, time seems to fly and when you’re told in the very beginning that time will fly, you may not believe it. But the longer you study, the more you realise that this is exactly the case. And now in the face of dissertation and nearing the end of my training, first year seems so far away, but it has passed in the blink of an eye.

Through this process, I’ve had a lot of questions. Some of those times, I’ve been fortunate to be able to catch another student nurse on placement about what I can expect from my future in nursing, but part of the time — I haven’t known what to expect and it has felt like entering into the unknown.

Sitting down with Toni, a second year student nurse, we decided together to do a mini Q&A on what to expect, from the eyes of someone who has been in her position.

Q. I have achieved good grades in year 1 and I’m worried about keeping up the same standard in year 2 now that they count towards the final degree classification. Is there a big jump from level 4 to level 5 academic writing?

The expectations shift a little, level 4 is often a descriptive form of writing and this year you will be expected to analyse your description more, to understand why you are saying that, from what the evidence base is telling you and to consider why pieces of information can contradict each other. In second year, I learned more about how to effectively appraise my evidence, before I reference it within a piece of academic work.

It isn’t a huge leap, the word level probably makes it sound more scary than it is. You will be guided by your lecturers, the library staff are always available for support. Your writing won’t necessarily change, rather you’re developing on the foundations that you’ve laid in your first year.

Q. I had a brilliant community hub placement in year 1 that was mainly elderly patients and I wonder if this had put me at a disadvantage coming into the acute hospital for my next placements. Will I be expected to know so much more in year 2 placements than I did in year 1?

I had a similar experience of moving from a year in the community in second year, to a placement in ITU in third year. I felt like a fish out of water! I found it was important to communicate these feelings with my mentor, to explain that my memory needed jogging about working in a hospital as I’d lost track of routines and schedules.

Placement in the community does not put you at an disadvantage, instead you learn a separate group of skills to what you may now develop going into a hospital. These skills are highly applicable, they are still nursing skills that you can utilise in any placement. For me it really just boiled down to grasping the new routine.

You will be expected to develop from first year, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a gradual thing. Your mentors will guide you, you will evaluate yourself as you learn more throughout the year.

Q. Almost every time I see a post on social media about year 2 it is negative, are year 2 blues really a ‘thing’?

I think this is something that we often end up a bit blasé about. Being a student nurse is a journey of highs and lows. There have been times when I’ve felt frazzled by my course, others where I’ve just known it’s perfect for me. I think the blues comes from the idea that you’re quite a distance from the beginning, but also a distance from finishing, so sometimes it feels like you still have so much to do.

My advice for this is to talk to your peers, your mentors, your lecturers. Look after yourself, practice good self-care. I always found it helped me to reflect on why I wanted to nurse in the very beginning, always go back to the start. Second year is hard, particularly emotionally, but a cup of tea and a chat can go a long way.

Q. The workload in year 1 appeared to be manageable with assignments launched early on in the year with 5-6 months to complete them. Is the workload more than year 1?

On reflection as a third year, where I have had OSCEs and I’m working on my dissertation, I do feel now that my second year workload was more manageable than this year. However, the pressures do increase and you will be balancing assignments while on placement, but this helps you to learn time management skills that are ultimately essential to life as a registered nurse.

This was a really tough part for me! Balancing moving up a level, placements, reading further, they all took more time. I cannot stress how important time management is to a successful nurse education. It’s hard work, but with good management it is manageable. Lecturers will not set assignments to be cruel, they set them to meet competencies and they set them with due dates that are manageable. It’s about taking control of your time, your education and what you want from it.

I found that in second year that I was able to explore my own interests a little more in my assignments, being able to choose an assignment focus from several case studies and following one. This is a good opportunity for you to identify the gaps in your knowledge and fill them, often also helping you to discover what areas of nursing you have a passion for.

Second year is a journey, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Enjoy the time you have, manage the time you have, remember why you started and remember that you’ve come so far. First year is completed and you are entering the next stage of your education.

Good luck for this year!

Love,

T & A x

End of year 1!

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I can now officially say that I am a second year student nurse! There have been times throughout this first year that I thought I would never be able to say that, I haven’t found the assignments to be particularly challenging but I have doubted myself in every way possible this year. Is my writing good enough? Am I good enough on placement? Will I ever have the right amount of knowledge to qualify?

I’m sure these are thoughts that a lot of us have had and will have again throughout the next 2 years of our journeys!

I am excited to get started with year 2 and get some more assignments, it seems like forever since I had anything to research and write about 😂 Although I may not be saying that once I get the dreaded research assignment!

My first placement of year 2 will be on ITU/HDU for 6 weeks, with 2 weeks annual leave in between. However, I won’t be off for the 2 weeks as I will be working at my bank job. I do have a visit to Harry Potter Studios to look forward to on the 6th April though!

I have so many expectations for second year, mainly due to what other students have said and things I have read on Internet forums. I am worried about the year 2 blues (although I worry about everything as you will know if you follow me on twitter, so that is nothing new 😂). I know I have a fantastic support network around me to get me through if the year 2 blues do hit.

I doubted myself so much at the beginning of the course and I still do now,  it’s a confidence thing and I think I’ll always be the same. I’m not the kind of person to admit to feeling like I’m good at something and would always rather play my skills down instead of shouting about them. Despite some amazing feedback from both my year 1 placements, I still have doubts about my abilities. I can see how much I have grown throughout this first year though and hope to continue to grow throughout year two.

In year 1, I achieved grades between 70-98% and would love to keep this high standard up throughout year 2 now that the grades start to count towards my final degree classification. I make no secret of the fact that ideally I want to qualify with a first so I need to keep focused on that goal.

During first year, my future focus has shifted from ward work as I now feel this is not where I can see myself in the future. I still have a passion for cardiology though so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a placement on the cardiology ward at my placement hospital. My next placement is something completely different to my year 1 placements and I am excited to get started on there.

Let me know how you found year 2 and if you have any tips for me 😊

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