Advice and development

Returning to clinical practice: Support will be there, just do your best

After two years out of training, nursing student Grant Byrne was nervous about going back on the wards. But with support from his mentor and other staff members, his fears turned out to be unfounded

After two years out of training, nursing student Grant Byrne was nervous about going back on the wards. But with support from his mentor and other staff members, his fears turned out to be unfounded


Picture: iStock

If resuming my study of nursing was nerve-wracking, going back on the wards was another thing entirely. The night before my return I tossed and turned, wondering just how much I’d forgotten, how much I’d get wrong.

On my hour-long commute I poured over the British National Formulary and generally fretted about looking stupid, but found there had been no need for me to worry.

I was thrown in at the deep end, which had been my worst nightmare. But rather than sinking I was swimming. That’s not to say I didn’t do anything wrong – it took time for me to find my feet again – but I was fortunate to be placed where I was.

Properly oriented

There is never enough time in the day, but every member of staff took time for me. I wasn’t expected to know it all, just to give my all.

Whether you are in your first clinical placement or are close to qualifying, always be curious. I ask a lot of questions because I am responsible for my own learning. It is also advisable to stick with the healthcare support workers at the start of your placement – they are the backbone of most wards, and will soon have you properly oriented. I’d have been lost without the support workers on my ward.

It’s also important to remember that although your mentor is there to support your learning, that is just one of a hundred jobs they have to do, and the best way to free up their time is to lend a hand.

Think ahead

Take the initiative where you can, such as doing routine observations before you’re asked to. This will impress your mentor, as well as give them the time they need to help you learn.

Where you have the time, use it to get to know your patients. The one benefit of being a student is the time we have to chat with those in our care, which is often not the case when you qualify.

Don’t forget about your learning outcomes either. I try to read these early on, and ask to work with other teams where possible to gain a better understanding of the patient’s journey. Just be sure to clear this with your mentor first.

Welcome to nursing

If you find you aren’t working enough with your mentor speak to the nurse in charge, as a co-mentor can usually help bridge the gap.

Placements are overwhelmingly positive experiences, even when things don’t quite go to plan. I was fearful of going back to the wards but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I won’t tell you to stop worrying, it doesn’t work like that. But I hope my experience will help settle some of those butterflies keeping you awake. Welcome to nursing.


Grant Byrne is a second-year nursing student at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

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