As the New Year rolls in, it seems a fitting point to reflect on my time as a Children’s Nursing student so far. Already I am halfway through my training with just a year and a half to go until I am qualified.
Despite this, becoming a full-time employed staff nurse seems like a lifetime away and something that I am completely unprepared for. Tutors and newly qualified nurses tell me that this is completely normal and that many nurses still feel like they know very little even when they have been nursing for a couple of years.
Looking back over my time as a student, actually a huge amount of knowledge has been invested into me by the various staff and mentors that I have had teaching me. Starting out, the first term was mostly a whistle stop tour through bioscience, providing the foundations for the rest of my nursing knowledge to sit upon. I really enjoy the biology and first aid aspects of the course, I did biology A-Level (which definitely helped in the lectures) and find how the body systems work really interesting. The first semester was also when I tried to get myself into good studying habits for the rest of the course such as typing out my lecture notes and then adding to them with the reading from textbooks. I managed to stay mainly on top of things which helped out when it came round to the exams at the end of the term.
The next term quickly came about and it was out to practice, rather scary to actually be going out into a clinical setting. For me the scariest thing was testing out whether this actually was the right career choice for me; it is all well and good researching what you would be doing as a children’s nurse but until you actually do it, you don’t know for sure. My first placement was at the paediatric outpatients department, and after two inductions I was ready to go meet my mentor and start work! It turns out I needn’t have worried; the people working there were lovely, I had nice hours (8.30am-4.30pm, Monday-Friday) and although the number of clinical skills I was able to learn were a bit limited, I got to practise them really well and become competent in them.
The end of three months came about and after Easter I was ready for my next placement. This time I was working with the health visiting team, which was quite a biggie for me as I had come onto the course with the intention of becoming a health visitor after qualifying. Would I still want to do that job after having done the placement? Again the team I worked with were lovely, and because the placement was quite long at three months, I got a really good insight into the role of the health visitor and got lots of opportunities to shadow some of the other teams, services and charities that health visitors work with, such as speech and language therapy, children’s centres and community midwives. The placement really gave me the benefit of seeing both the pros and the cons of working in that role.
Whilst all the placements were going on, we also had a taught module running alongside them about research and study skills. It was all about literature searching, being able to interpret what journals were saying and determining if the paper provided valuable findings. This module had to result in an essay demonstrating how our new-found knowledge was used to research into a topic (nutrition proved an exceptionally popular topic choice in our class, with all 25 of us choosing it!).
Two placements and two taught modules down, the class were rewarded with a four-week Summer break. Our first year was not quite completed however. It was finished off after our holiday with one further short placement. Having not had any ward experience I was getting rather anxious that I was falling behind where I should be in terms of clinical experience, but luckily I had a four-week ward placement awaiting me. Again starting a new placement in the hospital made me quite nervous, however after my first day, I wondered how I could have been quite so wrong! The nurses were normal, nice human beings, the hours were fine because I was busy most of the time, and like anything, my skills got better the more I practised them.
Year one done!
Straight after the short placement, we leapt back into the previous cycle of lectures and group work but this time lectures were child focused and we said goodbye to giant lecture theatres with all the adult and mental health nurses. This semester was about assessing the child as an individual and culminated in a mini-dissertation using lots of literature, focusing around a simple case that we had come across whilst on placement. I loved having the opportunity to research into all the different areas surrounding a case. The problem I had, was that I found so much that I could have written an essay on each of the six aspects we had to include; meaning the word count at the end was seriously stretched. Yet again I submitted dead-on the word limit and yet again I pushed the deadline; this time submitting at 4.30pm for a 5pm deadline (an improvement on the last essay, that was submitted at 4.58pm!).
So I hope that I have successfully whisked you up to date. This time next month I will have just done my first couple of days on my next placement: wish me luck!