"I’ve recently started at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, working on a neurology ward. Although there have been very tough days, I’m looking forward to embracing all the challenges ahead."
Why I chose Surrey
I always wanted to be a nurse - I can’t remember a time when that wasn’t the answer whenever anyone asked! It wasn’t something that worked out for me when I was younger but when my circumstances changed, I had the opportunity to give my training another go.
Surrey was immediately my first choice. I liked the feel of the University with its open spaces, but most importantly, I was really struck by the excellent nursing facilities on offer. The simulation suite looked like the ideal place to learn practical skills.
I liked the format of my children’s nursing course as it ensured I had minimal academic work to complete whilst out on placements. This meant I could concentrate on one thing at a time and have the time to learn as much as I could from my clinical mentors and healthcare colleagues.
I found my tutors very open, friendly and supportive in lectures and seminars. They were always happy to answer questions about any of the topics studied and our assessments. During my second year, I went through a tough time and my course tutors and my personal tutor were a great support - I knew I could always contact any of them if I needed anything.
The Clinical Simulation Suite was set up as small wards, so you got used to what hospitals felt like before going on a placement. It provided a safe place to learn skills, such as injections, and make mistakes, rather than doing it in front of patients on the wards. The use of actors for some of the sessions gave me a chance to interact with patients with a variety of needs. This was very challenging at times but an incredibly valuable experience, as you had the support of peers, tutors and the actors to work out what did and didn’t work.
My clinical placements
The majority of my clinical placements were based within the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where I got to work in accident and emergency and on general paediatric wards, as well as working with a team of specialist community nurses and health visitors, seeing patients in their homes and at a local hospice. I also got the opportunity to do two placements at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, on the oncology day unit and the gastro-surgical ward.
On my placements, I started with simple tasks, like assessing children and taking observations, learning when these weren’t within normal ranges and when to escalate concerns. I also practised lots of clinical techniques, including nasogastric tube placement and management, administering medications (tablets, liquids, injections), changing dressings, taking admission information and liaising with other teams. I got to observe operations and MRI and CT scans, as well as attend multidisciplinary team and safeguarding meetings. There was so much, it’s hard to think of everything!
My biggest highlight was in my final placement. I was involved with a seriously ill, deteriorating patient, something that still makes me very nervous when I think about it. Using my training, I delivered care to the child and supported their parent, through what was a very tough day. When the child was transferred off the ward, the parent found me to say thank you. With so much going on, I was truly touched that she came to see me.
Outside of my usual training, I also completed a four-week elective placement at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The liver ward was a fabulous place to experience specialist care for transplants - something I’ve always been interested in.
My career and development
Since being at Surrey, I’ve become so much more confident as a person. I know I can face difficult situations that I’d have avoided before and I feel more prepared to cope with these.
I’ve recently started at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, working on a neurology ward. The last few weeks adjusting to being a newly qualified nurse have been a huge challenge, but the ward staff have been incredibly supportive.
Although there have been very tough days, I’m looking forward to embracing all the challenges ahead, learning from them and providing the best care I can for my patients.
Be prepared for the highs and lows. Use the support of your peers, both on the wards and at the University for anything you struggle with.
Most of all, embrace the experience and ask to observe anything that you think will be interesting and could enhance your learning. Remember, you’re supernumerary, so you can be released from the ward for teaching sessions. If there’s anything specific you want to learn, just ask! You’ll be surprised at how many people want to teach you, doctors and nurses alike.
If there’s something you can’t see at your local trust or your placement, think about visiting somewhere you can, in the UK or abroad. It may push you out of your comfort zone but the experience you gain will be invaluable.