"Through my placements, I’ve learnt that it’s the little things that matter the most. Competence, professionalism and technical skills are essential, but it’s kindness, a smile, a welcome cup of tea, and a genuine warmth, that patients appreciate and remember."
I chose to study at Surrey because of its excellent reputation for nursing and the option to complete local placements.
So far, I’ve enjoyed both the academic and practical elements of my adult nursing course. Before I started, I was quite daunted about the academic work as it’s been a long time since I studied, but Surrey’s approachable and supportive staff have made the transition smooth. I have access to great facilities, including the Clinical Simulation Centre where I can practise my clinical skills.
Since starting this course, my confidence has grown. I’ve made some life-long friends who’ve supported me through thick and thin – things aren’t always easy, but having people who understand what you’re going through helps so much.
My clinical placements
Most of my placements have been at East Surrey Hospital, in colorectal surgical, elderly care, and gastrointestinal wards, in addition to a high dependency respiratory unit. I’ve also been on community placements with a district nursing team, at a hospice, in an elderly rehabilitation ward and at a GP surgery.
Through my placements, I’ve learnt the basics of care and how to take vital signs. I’ve catheterised patients and practised assessing wounds before dressing them - removing wound clips from post-surgery wounds is one of my favourite tasks! I’ve inserted nasogastric tubes, cared for people with tracheostomies and administered medications and feeds through stomach tubes. I’ve also been involved with planning and assessing patient care, writing nursing notes and giving handovers.
From the outset, I’ve been encouraged to participate in medication rounds and find opportunities for learning. I’m always on the look-out to spend time with nurse specialists who’re often very happy to share their knowledge.
"My first placement was on a colorectal ward, where I looked after a lady living with dementia, who had a perforated bowel. I stayed with her, so she wouldn’t be alone, and held her hand until she passed away."
My most memorable moment
My first placement was on a colorectal ward, where I looked after a lady living with dementia, who had a perforated bowel. She was confused and didn’t know where she was, so I stayed with her throughout the morning and helped her speak to her daughter on the phone. When I left, she said, “thank you for being my friend.” When I saw her the next day, she’d deteriorated. I stayed with her, so she wouldn’t be alone, and held her hand until she passed away.
Through my placements, I’ve learnt that it’s the little things that matter the most. Competence, professionalism and technical skills are essential, but it’s kindness, a smile, a welcome cup of tea, and a genuine warmth, that patients appreciate and remember.
My career and development
When I qualify, I’m going to continue working on the gastrointestinal ward at East Surrey Hospital, as part of the Covid-19 response. I’m considering postgraduate study but need a break first!
I’m quite open minded about my career as I’ve enjoyed all my placements – there are so many different aspects to nursing, but ultimately, I see myself pursuing a career in palliative care.
Believe in yourself and go for it!
The course structure can vary between universities, so find out if you’ll be expected to produce academic work while on placement and approximately how many days per week you’ll be at university. There’s no denying it’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding knowing that from your very first day in practice, you can make a real difference to patients and their families.
Listen to some more of my advice on the Nursing Standard podcast: