If you’re like many nurses I’ve met you were steered towards a career in nursing because it was your calling. Perhaps you admired an aunt who was a nurse or indeed you just fancied the uniform! Regardless of what the reason was, there is a stage in the journey to becoming a fully fledged nurse where you will wonder if indeed you made the right decision. Of course you did. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience those wobbly moments!
After having spent weeks being taught at University you are sent out into the field. It’s inevitable that one must learn to link theory with practice. The adrenaline rush pumps through your veins as you wait in anticipation for that hands-on experience. Will I witness a cardiac arrest? Will I get to do a dressing, perform an ECG or give an injection? Will the patients like me? All natural questions to ponder on.
However, nothing taught at University really prepares you for the reality of that first placement. Perhaps you chose your ward or it was chosen for you, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change the reality of that awkward patient who won’t take her medication, the tall scary Surgeon asking you a hundred and one questions,the snide remarks of a dissatisfied relative, that mentor who can’t be bothered to show you anything or indeed the scary matron who has everyone scampering out of sight at the sound of her footsteps! This is just the tip of the iceberg!
So if you’re a student nurse looking forward to being on the ward for the first time after having thoroughly equipped yourself with theories of nursing you’ll do well to remember the following tips on how to survive that first placement:
1. Always ‘like’ your mentor no matter what. Forget how horrible everyone says she is. She is after all your fountain of knowledge.
2. There are times when you will feel like the fifth wheel. Don’t take it personally. Wards are busy places.
3. Deal with your personal problems or simply leave them at the door. Don’t waste time wallowing or sulking. It will only make things worse!
4. Smile and exude a positive attitude always. It tells them you’re friendly and approachable. Before you know it they will all be competing for you.
5. Always let your patients know you’re learning. They will forgive you when you take forever to get that blood pressure reading.
6. Remember it’s nothing personal when your mentor loses patience with you; she’s stressed, overworked and trying to get the job done. Deal with it!
7. Always ignore that voice or those looks that tell you you’re an idiot because you’re not. This is your first experience and you have a lot to learn. One day you’ll be just as confident as them or better!
8. Remember Doctors are just human beings. They’re not aliens from Mars so be comfortable around them!
9. Go with an open mind remembering that text books are just that – text books. Nursing comes from the heart!