In September 2017, I started my second year as a student nurse. Having undertaken an access course prior to my nurse training, I very much regarded this point in my studies as the mid-way moment. Halfway to becoming a nurse, there was definitely no going back now.
“Congratulations and Welcome to year two” were the opening words uttered to us by one of the senior lecturers. I can’t describe the overwhelming sense of pride I felt at these words. I could feel the threat of tears prickling the back of my eyes and a golf ball sized lump in the back of my throat but I think I managed to style it out, as I swallowed and blinked back all evidence.
So it was really real and a bit scary, I was no longer a 'newbie' then, not only was I expected to know a great deal more but I was also expected to lead by example for the new first years beginning their journey.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, this last year has been somewhat turbulent for me. Thanks to some unexpected family issues combined with module four (notoriously the most challenging module of the entire course), I really have worked my socks off!!! Fortunately not in vain, as my grades have reflected my efforts and so far all is going well. Tribulations aside, I have also made some lovely memories. Probably my most significant moment this year, was when discharging a patient home after an extended stay in critical care.
When I met this lovely lady she was unconscious and intubated after deteriorating following a serious lung infection. For some time she was in a worrying state and despite several attempts to extubate, she failed to show signs of improvement. The doctors, nurses and physiotherapists worked tirelessly for the lady and after several weeks she finally began to positively react to treatment. Eventually a tracheostomy was put in place and her sedation was held. She was very disorientated when she first came round but we had kept a diary of her time spent with us, which I read to her. It can be tricky communicating with a tracheostomy patient because they are unable to speak, but I soon developed the art of lip reading and before long she was asking to be taken outside. So every day a small team of people got together and wheeled her and all her equipment outside so that she could feel the warmth of May sun.
The lady was very determined by nature and was desperate to walk outside herself, cue the physiotherapists! Another amazing team of individuals that pulled together in order to re-enable her. One morning after a lengthy gap between shifts I arrived on shift and whilst receiving handover, the lady in question said “Good morning Caroline”. It took me by complete surprise, the lady had not only been completely extubated but she was also beginning to speak again too.
This is a heavily edited version of events to say the very least, but to cut a long story very short, the lady made a full recovery and she thanked us all for our efforts before we waved her off the unit and she went home to enjoy life with her family. I felt enormously privileged to have played even just a small role in her recovery and it reminded me why I had chosen this career path.
As previously mentioned year two has not passed me by without challenge. Module four (Recognising and responding to the deteriorating patient) descended upon us with a thud. Unlike other modules where you are expected to submit an essay or presentation, module four is a three hour written exam where your clinical knowledge is paramount.
Like many others I fear exams. Time limitations, silence and general pressure doesn’t do any favours for my stress levels, but acknowledging these fears before sitting the exam certainly helped me to cope with the pressure. I revised day and night, often waking up in the night and hitting YouTube to reaffirm lectures that hadn’t quite sunk in. Just knowing that I had put the time and effort in gave me comfort and as long as I tried my best I couldn’t be disappointed.
Trying my best at everything I do in practice and theory has also helped me to maintain a positive attitude throughout the year. Every essay, exam or clinical area present their very own challenges and even if I don’t always know how to resolve them, if I approach them with a smile, an air of positivity and a sense of humour, it makes life a lot easier.
So here I am at the end of year two, still smiling, positive and looking forward to the challenge of my final year...............after a well-deserved holiday!