Student's innovation aims to reduce first placement anxiety

Student's innovation aims to reduce first placement anxiety

A first year nursing student who created an education tool to give her peers confidence on their first placement has been shortlisted for the acclaimed Nursing Standard Nurse Awards.

Georgina O'Reilly-Foley
Georgina O’Reilly Foley. Picture credit: Tim George

Georgina O’Reilly Foley, who is currently studying at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, created a set of information cards for students on their first placements. The cards aim to boost students’ confidence, reduce their anxiety and improve care.

She will find out if she has won the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award, in association with RCN Fellows, at a glittering ceremony at The Savoy Hotel in London on May 1.

Georgina says she knew from experience how daunting it is to start working on wards for the first time. ‘I was terrified and overwhelmed on my first placement at Southend Hospital,’ she says. ‘No time in the classroom can prepare you for that first placement - the buzz of the ward.

‘There was so much to do and remember - care rounds, observations, fluid and stool charts, skin checks, door codes.

‘And I didn't understand all the abbreviations during handover. I worried constantly about forgetting something and making a mistake and questioned whether I could do it. I wished there was something that could have made me better prepared.'

Constant refresher

Her lightbulb moment came when she went down to theatre with a patient. ‘I was very nervous,’ says Georgina, ‘the noises, the smells’. The theatre assistant showed her where to place the ECG cables. ‘I pulled out my notepad and started drawing. The anaesthetist said he had never seen a student do that before. I explained that I am a visual learner and my notes helped me retain the information and refer to it next time without having to keep asking.’

Georgina O'Reilly-Foley
Georgina O’Reilly Foley at work. Picture credit: Tim George

She later went through her notepad and realised the information stored there could be useful for others. She distilled it into 14 flashcards, laminated so they can be wiped and also fitted on to a belt buckle.

‘The cards will give students a foundation before they start their placement - for example I would have loved to have known more about a handover before my placement.

'I hope they will reduce the anxiety of nursing students on their first placement because they act as a constant refresher,' says Georgina. 'They have also been conversation-starters with patients who see them and are interested. In the long run I hope they will help maintain standards because good habits are taught from the beginning of nurse training.'

The flashcards are being rolled out across the trust as a learning tool for nursing students. 'I am so lucky to have had incredible support from my peers and mentors who have taught me that when you want to do something you can.'

In the future, Georgina is hoping to create a set of appropriate cards for second and third year nursing students to complement her first year set. 'The second year will include skin integrity, patient transfer checklist and drug calculations and the third issues such as medication management and blood glucose monitoring.'

She hopes her cards will inspire other students, as well as qualified nurses, to say stand up and say ‘I have an idea’.

‘If these cards make a small difference to one student, if they learn one thing that improves patient care, then they are a success,’ she adds. ‘And I hope they will enable students to enjoy what they are doing, which will improve their patient care.

‘They contain all the things I would have found useful - including reminders to smile when there is so much to remember. Our patients are human and they are so worried about what will happen - sometimes that connection is more beneficial than their cares.’

True commitment

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust acting chief nurse Cheryl Schwarz says Georgina shows true commitment to providing the best care to her patients and is passionate about wanting to be the best nurse she can be. She adds: ‘The development of the flash cards will help others with their learning and skills development.

Georgina O'Reilly-Foley
The judges found Georgina’s enthusiasm inspiring. Picture credit: Tim George

‘Importantly, these cards not only provide technical guidance, but they also serve to remind learners about how they can embed the six Cs in their practice, helping them to understand and appreciate how good compassionate care can make a real difference and enhance the patient’s experience.

“We are very proud of the commitment and courage that Georgina has shown, from the development of an idea to presenting it to the chief nurse and chief executive and being part of taking it forward.’

The judges found Georgina’s enthusiasm inspiring and praised her efforts to enable nurse learners to be better in their practice. Joan Myers, nurse consultant for children and young people, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, says: ‘It is great to see such passion and nursing students already looking for solutions to issues.’

Anglia Ruskin University lecturer in acute nursing Theodora Stroumpouki is delighted that Georgina has been shortlisted for such a prestigious award.

‘She is a mature and hard-working young person, who is ambitious and sets for herself high but realistic goals,’ she says. ‘She is full of compassion and care for her patients and colleagues and displays leadership quality.’

Georgina, whose motivation to become a nurse stems from when she was three-year-old patient and she felt safe with them, is also thrilled to be in the Nurse Awards final. ‘Nurses were my role models - I wanted to be like them. And now I want to give back to the NHS for giving me my life and with this I feel I have started my journey to do that.’

Find out more

Nursing Standard Nurse Awards

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