- 17 June 2019
- 13 min read
My 5 best experiences as a student nurse
In this blog and vlog, Claire shares her favourite nursing experiences she's had so far.
My name is Claire, for anyone who doesn't know me, I'm a second-year adult nursing student at the University of Southampton but I'm originally from Dublin.
Today I'm going to talk to you about the five best nursing experiences I've had so far throughout my training.
I'm just about to finish my second year so I feel like I have a lot to share with this, there's definitely some amazing experiences I've had throughout my time training so far and I'm sure I'll have plenty in the future!
So, if you're interested to hear about the best experience I've had so far in my nursing career, then stay tuned!
Meeting so many patients
So, my first best nursing experience so far, as cringe as it sounds, is definitely meeting all the patients I've met so far - their families, the nurses I've worked with, my mentors, the doctors, physios, OTs - everyone I've worked with so far.
I feel like throughout my four placements I have made really good connections with people and just being able to find out more about them, be it a patient who's really really ill or the family who just wants to talk, other nurses - I've learned about their lives, doctors have shared stresses with me, physios, OTs.
I think as an extrovert, a people person, this has been incredible to just get to know so many people at such an intimate level, especially patients when they’re at the hardest time probably in their whole life and you're the one there as a student nurse and a nurse listening to all the problems they may have, their worries, their fears, the things they're happy about.
It's really such a privilege to be able to work so closely closely with people when they're at their most vulnerable so that's definitely my first best nursing experience.
There's a few ones that really stick out that were just really profound and interesting cases in my head with patients that have just like touched a chord in me more so than others, and I think that's just because maybe I relate to them more so than maybe other patients and I think that's completely normal.
Sometimes it will take you by surprise how much one patient can affect you while you could go and nurse 20 patients and each will not affect you so much.
I think that's the beauty of Nursing and I think that just comes with the job, so that's definitely my first best nursing experience.
If you are doing nursing at the moment then hopefully you'll have had a similar experience, and if you're going into nursing then you have that to look forward to. Me and my friends talk about it all the time, how it really is a privilege to be able to work so closely with people that are so sick but yet inspire you.
It's really incredible.
Going to theatre
My second best nursing experience was definitely going to theatre.
I've gone to theatre a few times, but there was one time in particular where I was bringing down a patient for his operation.
I was just meant to bring him down to the anaesthetic room and kind of drop him off.
We do this exchange where we give them a pillow from our ward so you have to bring it down, and you also have to say that this is the patient, that you say who it is and then you have to reiterate what the operation is.
So, let's say if it was left arm, something or other, you have to say ‘yes, it's his left arm and he's this age and this is his name’, so kind of just go over his personal information.
So, I was just meant to do that and then I was meant to leave him in the anaesthetic room but one of the anesthesiologists was like ‘oh, you’re a student nurse?’ I said yes, I think I was at the end of my first year at the time, and he asked ‘have you ever seen general anaesthetic before?’ and I was like, nope!
So at this point I hadn't been to theaters before, and he asked ‘ do you want to stay and watch the general anaesthetic being done?
And then you can either stay for the operation or you can go back up to your ward’ so I said ‘yeah, that'd be amazing!’.
So I stayed for the general anaesthetic and it was just fascinating because it was the first time I'd ever seen it and I was helping him do little jobs and stuff and he was going through everything with me really, really clearly so I completely understood it which was amazing.
Then afterwards he was like ‘do you want to come into the operation?’ and I was like, oh I better go back to the ward, so I went back but when I went back everyone on the ward asked ‘where have you been for the past hour?’ but they were more than happy that I took that opportunity to go and learn something new and that's what I'd say.
I'd say take the opportunity, maybe ring your mentor and tell them where you are first but I definitely take every opportunity that comes at you and grab it with both hands because it might not come back again.
If I didn't say yes to that opportunity I might have never got a person who went through it so thoroughly with me and made me understand it and didn't make me feel like an idiot or anything like that. I felt completely comfortable saying ‘I think this what happens, I think this is what involved’, I kind of went through it like that.
So, I'd say jump into every opportunity because once they're gone, they're gone!
Working in the community
My third best nursing experience is definitely working in the community.
I found this really really different to the hospital setting because, obviously patients are in their own home, so instead of in the hospital they're kind of coming into your environment, in the community you're going into their environments.
You're going into their home where they've lived for years and years and their families are around and it's very different because it's so personal.
My last placement was actually in community so it's still really fresh in my mind and this definitely stood out to me because, especially if you’ve got a patient who is end-of-life or on an end-of-life pathway, that is so personal because you're assisting them to be as comfortable as possible when they're having their last days on this earth alongside their family, alongside their friends, alongside their partners of 60 years.
It's incredible - it's also such a privilege to be able to be alongside them and to assist them as much as possible, do as much as they want you to do or as little as they want you to do, that kind of thing.
You just have to really play by ear with the patient and what the patient and the family want.
The community was also incredible because you saw people that had bad experiences or didn't like hospitals, because most people don't as a patient, it's obviously quite a scary place so they wanted to stay at home as much as possible, and our whole role in the team I was within the community was to prevent hospital admissions as much as possible.
We were kind of the in-between stage in between the hospital and just normal community nursing, so we were the ones that really really tried to listen to the patient's wishes and make decisions in their best interest, so that was definitely incredible to be alongside.
I really enjoyed the community so that was definitely one of my best nursing experiences so far.
Oncology was so inspirational
My fourth best nursing experience was working in oncology, and for anyone who doesn't know, oncology is cancer care.
A lot of people, before I went into it, were like ‘it's gonna be so sad, it's gonna be awful, everyone's gonna be dying’ and the thing is that's not the case.
Oncology is about patients’ palliative care, so just doing symptom control.
Some people overcome cancer and get into remission and things like that, so not everybody is critically ill or dying, it's not like that at all.
Out of all my placements probably I found that the most inspiring because there were so many people - yes, they are very ill but just completely got on with their lives, almost acted like they didn't have it but they weren't in denial, if that makes sense.
They knew they had cancer and they knew that they were ill, but in their heads they were like ‘there's nothing we can do about this, I'm getting treatment, I'm doing everything I can to make sure it doesn't come back or get worse’ and they just got on with their lives and were so incredibly strong.
So, I think oncology is definitely a very inspiring place - yes, of course it can be very sad and very challenging emotionally at times, but I think overall it's an incredible, inspiring place and I would love to work there in the future. I think that's just incredible to be able to know that in the end of the second year, I kind of know where I want to work already.
I think not many people do, so I'm very blessed to be able to be in a position where I think I found my niche and where I want to go.
So I’m definitely very grateful for that placement to show me the path I want to go on.
The feeling of being fulfilled at the end of your shift
My fifth best nursing experience is not one particular experience, it's kind of an overall feeling.
It's just a feeling at the end of every shift - maybe not every shift because some shifts can be really emotional, challenging and very draining, but the majority of shifts when you come home and I feel like I've made a difference today by doing that small thing for a patient that has made such a big difference to their life, and although it was so small it made them feel more comfortable, it made their hospital stay more enjoyable.
Then obviously there's bigger things you do for people where it's actually life saving, but I think it's not all about saving lives.
It's just about doing the little things for patients that makes their stay in hospital that little bit better and more positive than it would have been if I hadn't have been there.
So, just to know you've made a difference to somebody's day or month or a year or life, just knowing that is such an incredible feeling to know that every day you go into the hospital you are in control of if you make a really positive impact on some of these lives or if you don't.
So, that's just an incredible thing to be honest!
So, these are my five best nursing experiences so far.
Obviously, I have a year left of my nursing training, hopefully, I'll have lots more experiences and grow even further into the nurse I want to become.
I hope this inspires you to get out there and just make a difference to somebody's day because it will make them feel so much better and you'll feel really good for it as well. Thank you so much for listening!