Expectation vs Realities of Studying Nursing.

Nursing – Dual Registration in Adult and Children and Young People student Chloe Jackson discusses her experiences on the course and how they compared to her expectations before starting.

My expectations before starting my course

Like many students, I had the expectation to have my classes in person within the university campus as opposed to online learning. I expected to have the clinical skills sessions within the clinical skills labs as opposed to a couple due to social distancing. I hoped to have met our class in person as opposed to meeting our class through a screen, and to have had longer time on placement within practice as opposed to shorter placements in different clinical areas. However, I applied for the nursing course during Clearing which was also during the pandemic. Therefore I knew that I should expect many changes to how the course would be delivered. I just didn’t know what these changes would be, and in fact there has been many positives to the experience despite COVID-19.

How my course compared to my expectations

I have found my online classes to have had many positives. One of the main benefits is that unlike when you’re in a live lecture on campus you have the ability to rewind the lectures back as many times as you like. We are getting a great opportunity to build on our digital skills which is where health care’s future is moving towards. Online classes have reduced the amount of travel time and travel cost which has also had a positive impact on reducing pollution. Despite our placements being shorter and not having as many clinical skills sessions as expected, we have had the opportunity to work in more placement areas, so we have had the chance to broaden our knowledge and skills in different clinical areas. We have also had some interesting simulation practice experiences involving a chance to dive into group activities based around the nursing school’s virtual hospital, build on our communication skills with the volunteer patients and learn Makaton to name a few. The university have done such a great job to provide the best learning experience for us despite these global changes that we have all been faced with.

My First Placement

My first placement was a Medical Placement at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) and it was a super start. I had some great learning opportunities and I got a chance to practice skills that I had learnt in my clinical skills session. The placement took place in the early days of COVID-19 so it was interesting to see how things worked.

Here are a list of the clinical skills and tasks I achieved during placement 1, stage 1:

  • Taking a cannula out (I did this many times)
  • Personal Care
  • Observations: Taking blood pressure, measuring Oxygen Saturation, respiration, temperature, heart rate & consciousness
  • Performed a Dalteparin injection (I was super proud after doing this skill for the first time)
  • A bladder scan
  • Samples and measurements of bodily fluid
  • Supervised medication preparation
  • Report writing
  • Glucose and ketone measurements
  • A wound dressing using the Aseptic non touch procedure
  • ECG scans (checking the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity)

I was also very fortunate to have several observation experiences and learn from the multi disciplinary team:

  • Observation with the Liver Nurse
  • A ward round with the doctors
  • Observation with psychiatry
  • Various scans (Head, heart and in lower body organs).
  • A lumber puncture procedure
  • Resuscitation trolley emergency!

My second placement was at Cornhill which was also a great experience.

  • I learnt key terminology in mental health setting
  • Gained an understanding of mental health conditions and symptoms associated.
  • Learnt about the Mental Health Regulations Act.
  • Learnt about some medications to treat mental health conditions

Placement at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin

My 3rd first year placement was a surgical placement at Dr Grays Hospital in Elgin. I also really enjoyed this placement. There was a real community feel about the place. The day case unit was a little different to normal due to the pandemic and ongoing refurbishment within the hospital. Out with the pandemic the day case unit is one big ward, but during my time on the ward half of the ward was being used as an outpatients department and SAC (Surgical Ambulatory Clinic), and the other half was being used for day case patients. This meant there were 3 side rooms and 6 bay beds in situ for day case patients. This situation gave me the opportunity to visit some other wards and get involved with patient’s personal care, basic observations and medication rounds.

During my time on this placement patients were admitted to ward 1 for many different surgical procedures for example: orthopaedics, ophthalmology, gynaecology and scope procedures. (Colonoscopy, Gastroscopy’s and Cystoscopy’s).

With the patient’s consent I had the opportunity to observe a Colonoscopy, Gastroscopy and Cystoscopy within the minor Op’s theatre and the nurse there explained the procedure as it happened. I carried out some pre reading on the digestive system and urinary system prior to these observations.

I also had the opportunity to attend the pre assessment clinic for cataract surgery. This involved various steps; a general health check with a registered nurse, an eye check up with a trained health care support worker, a consultation with the ophthalmologist and sizing for the new lens with a registered nurse. I was also fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe cataract surgery which was fascinating. I also observed a trabeculectomy which is a type of surgery for Glaucoma.

It was interesting to have had the opportunity to observe a carpal tunnel operation. I saw the inside of the hand which is such a complex part of the body!

I spent some time in the Spey Unit which is being used for the IV infusions. (Blood transfusions and Remisma transfusions). I was responsible for doing the observations and talking to the patients. In fact, despite only being there for a day I developed a really great therapeutic relationship with a patient and their relative which I felt really great about.

I spent some time with the Pain Nurse at Dr Grays Hospital and got a great overview of different pain medications and pain equipment they use (The PCR and Pain bomb).

When I wasn’t in theatre observing some interesting surgery or at other wards I was learning on the day case Ward. I was involved in the pre & post operative care of patients, doing basic observations and documenting on the NEWS chart. I learnt about the admission & discharge procedure and was confident doing this independently (which I have to say was my favourite part of this placement because it allowed me to develop my skills in nursing documentation as well as my confidence). I was also given some really great reading resources on various topics and medications!

I found all staff through my first 3 placements to be very knowledgeable in their area of expertise and always keen to teach!

My Placement Accommodation

When I first found out I was allocated my final 1st year placement in Elgin I was unsure what I should expect, but I knew with the holiday period coming up I was going to have to book accommodation fairly quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of my class mates also had a placement at Dr Grays Hospital so we shared an AirBnB which was brilliant! The accommodation really added to the enjoyment of my placement experience.

I felt very at home in the apartment which was just a 6 minute drive from Dr Grays Hospital. The apartment was a private space connected to the host’s house with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen/living space. It had all the facilities that you could need and more! Fridge, freezer, oven, fridge, Wi-Fi and TV! It has the most beautiful balcony and garden space. I can’t miss out all of the host’s animals, there was wee Maisy the dog, the 3 horses (Cleo, Dazzle and Sunny) and the pet pheasant. Coming back to the animals after a shift was lovely. I visited the stables every night to feed the horses and had a great time playing and walking in the fields with Maisy who was such a welcoming wee dog! In fact, as soon as my car entered the drive after my shift Maisy would run up and greet me which was lovely and much needed as I missed my own dogs! There were also some great walks in the area too.

Exploring Elgin

It can be daunting being away from home but I felt at home very quickly and very safe and comfortable in my accommodation, and to be honest there wasn’t time to be home sick because there was lots to get organised. Staying in this lovely environment made a huge impact to my overall placement experience. Being able to cook was also a massive importance for me too – instead of buying take always which can be very expensive!

As well as having great learning opportunities at Dr Grays Hospital I had the opportunity to explore some lovely areas in Elgin. It is best to have a car to explore, although there are bus services available. My favourite place to visit was Roseisle Forrest/Beach. It was beautiful. It costs a couple of pounds to park so make sure to bring some change. They also hold paddle boarding sessions down at the beach which is perfect for a nice day. There is a food van down at the parking area too in the forest, but it might be nice to bring a wee picnic if your going for the day. I chose to visit one evening after a shift and the beach was pretty empty. It was a beautiful evening!  It took about 20 minutes drive from the hospital to get there- totally worth it. I also ventured to Findhorn beach on one of my days off which was fun too. Another massive spacious beach with cute little colourful huts which is the main attraction on this beach! There was lots of lovely little places to eat and explore in Findhorn.

Overall, it has been a great first year despite the pandemic. I would recommend anyone thinking about applying for nursing to definitely apply despite COVID-19, as there are lots of positives and great learning opportunities even though the pandemic has been somewhat restrictive!

Chloe Jackson

Read more about Chloe’s Journey at RGU:

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