Day 1 complete! 14 hours down, 248.5 to go. I wake up at 5:30am excited and exhausted, absolutely no idea what to expect. I arrive and ask about 3 people where I can find the acute care ward in this maze of corridors and eventually I’m stood at the door buzzing it to be let in. I settle and then I’m sat ready to meet the rest of the team. I try to create an air of confidence about me which I think works, but is soon to be taken away when I’m working the ward.
I’m assigned my mentor and we start with the morning drug round, at this point I’m feeling confident and cool. I observe the ward and try to make out what acute care really means and the people who are brought to us. I find that people are brought up to us from A&E, where we then continue to treat them until we transfer them to other wards more suitable for their needs. In all honesty I was expecting critically ill patients, dying left, right and centre (as morbid as that sounds), but day one taught me otherwise. We (my mentor and I) looked after ‘A bay’, one of four bays, where we had only three patients on a six bedded bay. Easy. We gave medication, washes and I even dressed an infected leg ulcer, which I was later told was expected to be amputated… just to put my morning into perspective.
Fourteen hours on my feet, whilst trying to learn throughout really tested me, with only three twenty minute breaks all day. I had to scoff food down me whilst walking back to the ward from a hospital shop to ensure I wouldn’t be late returning. At this point I’ve been told to give handover to another ward via a phone call. My palms are literally sweating and I’m asking “what do I say?”. “Just read from their documents” my mentors explains as she walks off to break. Luckily another nurse helped me out, but unintentionally made me feel incompetent by getting me to repeat after him and smiling ‘well done’ afterwards.
Anyway, I was faced with dementia, alcohol dependency, A LOT of chest complaints, infections and a possible diagnosis of lung cancer amongst my bay. It was unusual to see people for such a short amount of time, until they were then wheeled off and replaced with another patient with whom we’d repeat our nursing duties. I’d build rapport, which would be turned into curiosity as to what happened to that person eventually.
Although I was expecting critically ill patients and death, I was faced with a lot of mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, alcohol addiction and neurological conditions and patients with conditions that you may find on specialist wards, all bundled in one. Day one, and I was making phone calls to different departments, that didn’t go quite to plan, and taking on admissions. This is where that air of confidence evaporated. It may be easy for those who have spent years in healthcare, but to me who came straight from A levels it was a challenge. My day consisted of asking the same questions over and over until I was confident I understood the task and umming and ahhing when I didn’t know something. Thankfully 9:15pm came along and all I could focus on then was bed!
All I can do is know things will get easier and everyone is running their own race, at their own speed. Yes, I may feel like I will never get there and yes, perhaps things may take more time for someone like me. I can’t knock myself for my persistence even when I feel like giving up and in all honesty, if I can get through it, anyone can. Really.