The night before my first shift had been quite restless, and I awoke at 5am having had a nightmare that my uniform wasn’t cleaned, that I’d lost my shoes and that I was late. That would have been quite an eventful start to my first placement, but the reality was that there was no need to have worried so much. My first day was a whirlwhind of meeting people, spending time with my mentor, finding my way around the ward, handover, abbreviations and illnesses I’d heard of but wasn’t sure about in detail. Despite this, I didn’t once feel overwhelmed and constantly felt supported and relaxed knowing I was in good hands. It’s like starting a new year at school, or a new job, and as anyone knows, you always worry whether the people you’ll meet will like you and sometimes vice versa. Quickly, I realised this was another ridiculous thing to be worried about as I’d genuinely never been somewhere I’d felt more welcome or with such a group of lovely people that excelled at everything they do.
I used to assume that there was a huge hierarchy on a ward and quite a divide between doctors and nurses, but again, how wrong could I be? It’s like one big team that are happy to include and teach anyone their knowledge, with their focus always on the wellbeing of the child and their family. The ward wasn’t manically busy on my first few days, which I agreed was nice as it helped me to settle into how the ward works and become accustomed to the systems that are in place. I’ve had time to talk to the ward manager, the matron, sisters, staff nurses, doctors and HCAs and all have incredible yet different knowledge to impart, a font that all student nurses should take advantage of whenever they can!
I feel fortunate to have my first placement in a general children’s ward, where some of my peers are on specialist wards, as only 3 shifts in, I’ve been exposed to all manner of illnesses, and am confident that I’ll have a wealth of knowledge to take away with me at the end of my 5 weeks. It’s nice as a student nurse who’d never had any clinical experience before my degree to finally put all the assumptions to rest and to see what it’s really like out there in the big, bad world! Many of you will think this is silly, but as I’d never even really been in hospital myself, I sat in handover confused at what TTO meant, but I soon was saying it myself, and it was the same with many other medical abbreviations, too. My mentor has told me that there is no such thing as a silly question, which I sometimes disagree with, but I urge everyone to just ask if there’s something you don’t understand. I have, and my wealth of knowledge has already improved significantly… something which will expand even further over the course of the placement. I’ve learnt to relax and not to worry if you’re not sure what something means or how a procedure works, and I have to say to myself that all of the nurses I watch in awe were one day in the same boat as me, and that everyone feels helpless to start off with.
So far, I’ve become familiar with the assessment sheets and the ward admission pack and have observed nurses go through the admission process with a child and their parents. I’ve witnessed the process of admitting a child onto the ward from A & E. If my mentor is doing paperwork or updating her knowledge (something which never stops), I’ve spoken to parents about their children’s illnesses and they’re often the most knowledgeable, living with something everyday and understanding better than anyone what is ‘normal’ for their child and what their child likes or dislikes. The ward sister allowed me to sit with a staff nurse updating her knowledge on breast feeding, an experience which substantially increased my knowledge on something I’d previously known little about. I’ve taken a child in foster care down to surgery to have some teeth extracted and reassured his foster father whilst talking to him at length about the development of the child since coming into his care. I’ve seen how the ward’s Family Liaison Officer provides yet another facet of support to parents through the difficult time where their child is in hospital. I’ve watched a nurse adopt effective communication skills whilst administering medication to a distressed child with leukaemia, getting him to do ‘chicken arms’ to improve blood flow and to listen to the machine that ‘makes the same sounds as something from Star Wars’. I’ve seen how parents and children alike are so thankful for the care that they receive from nurses full of empathy and knowledge. I’ve seen a teenager admitted to the ward after an overdose, and sat by her bedside, talking about the things she liked to do, her favourite book and her best friends, seeing a smile come to her face and remembering that it’s often the little things that help so much. I’ve seen the difference that a few cups of coffee at regular intervals can make to parents of a child with complex care needs frequently residing on the ward. There’s still so much I have yet to learn, but I’m learning so much, every day, and I’m thankful for every ‘little’ thing.