Life as a student nurse can be tough at times. While your friends on other courses may be enjoying the luxury of socialising until late, you will often find yourself heading to bed early in anticipation of another day on placement in the morning. It’s easy to get bogged down by the gruelling nature of the course but it’s vital that you make the most of every single day on placement. Adelyn Gumbo, a student nurse at The University of Manchester, discusses below what she has learnt on placements from band 6-8 nurses…
During my second year of university, I found that a lot of my time was spent with nurses who were band six or above. At first, I felt as though there was extra pressure being with the Band six nurses because they would (obviously) expect more of me and would know a great deal more than I did. However, the more time I spent with them the more interesting I found their roles.
My first time with a band six was on a Gynaecology Unit where my ‘assessor’ was a sister on the ward. It was interesting to see the way she managed the ward as a whole as well as her set of patients and of course teaching me the day-to-day on the ward. At the start of my second year, I was thrown into the deep end and told to take my own patient for the day, memorise and learn medication and speak to doctors about my patients. This was something so frightening for me as I was so used to being ‘ under the direct supervision’ of my assessors. However, I took this confidence with me into my second placement and I can truly say I was confident to do all the things that initially scared me by the end of my second year.
In my community placement, I spent time with the Active Case Managers (ACMs) who are also band six nurses but with a completely different scope of practice. On this placement, I learnt the importance of good communication with patients and other members of staff and how to stay true to your principles and core values. It can be intimidating walking into someone’s home (especially a new patient on the caseload) as you never truly know what you’ll find or even if your presence is welcome. However, document, document, document and always do joint initial visits with new patients if you feel unsafe. It’s so important to utilise the advice and help of your colleagues as a lot of the time the ACM’s received patients on to the caseload that Physiotherapists or Occupational Therapists had already seen therefore they could elaborate and give them more background information on them.
I also want to talk about not being afraid to spend time with band seven nurses. I understand that at any stage of practice, even as a qualified nurse, interacting with band seven nurses can be extremely intimidating. There’s an underserved perception that matrons are extremely harsh and unapproachable and that ward managers are strict, however, any interaction I have ever had with band seven nurses has been positive.
During my elective placement, I spent some time with an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP), a time which sparked my interest in the diagnostic process and anatomy and physiology. Advanced Nurse Practitioners are band 8 nurses with an extensive background in healthcare and they bridge the gap between nurses and doctors by essentially doing the work of junior doctors. Their role is essential in busy units such as Acute Medical Units and Acute Surgical Units as their background as nurses helps them to communicate and understand the worries of band 5 nurses and above whilst their knowledge and other management responsibilities allow them to be more approachable to junior doctors.
After spending only four shifts with an ANP in the acute surgical unit I realised never to underestimate the emerging role of the nurse. I was able to learn the theory behind the diagnostic process as well as how conditions are managed, and surgical interventions are implemented. ANP’s can also prescribe some medications and write discharge letters/summary just like junior doctors as well as manage small teams in other departments. Nursing does not have to be ward-based and it sure doesn’t have to be boring.
If you take one thing from this let it be that nursing is one of the most exciting careers to enter. My advice would be to take every opportunity you have to spend time with highly experienced nurses both as a student and also when you’re qualified.