Clinical placements

Be ready to act whenever someone needs help

While on a placement in Sri Lanka in her final year of training, Kirsty Wallace went to the aid of a fellow customer who collapsed in a bank. She managed to help the woman resume breathing until an ambulance arrived, and felt the experience improved her self-confidence

While on a placement in Sri Lanka in her final year of training, Kirsty Wallace went to the aid of a fellow customer who collapsed in a bank. She managed to help the woman resume breathing until an ambulance arrived, and felt the experience improved her self-confidence

While on an elective placement in Sri Lanka in my final year of training, an incident occurred where I had to work quickly and accurately to ensure the safety of an older lady who had collapsed.

I was in the bank next to the hospital I was working in when she fell to the floor. No one in the bank could speak English, so I had to overcome a major communication barrier to try and determine what had happened and how I could help her.

After calling an ambulance, and finding a family member who could speak some English, I discovered that the lady had a severe allergy to nuts. Someone had been eating nuts nearby, which had caused her to go into anaphylactic shock.

When I asked the family if the lady had any anti-allergy medication, they handed me a glass vial of adrenaline. The bank manager then ran out with the medical supply box, which had a selection of needles.

Need to remain calm

The limited resources in Sri Lanka meant there were no intra muscular needles, so I had to find the most appropriate needle to use to administer the adrenaline. Having never administered emergency drugs under such challenging conditions, I was nervous, but I had to remain calm and confident to ensure the safety of the lady.

Her pulse was becoming weak and she was struggling to breathe, so I quickly administered the adrenaline. This took effect fast, and although she was very shocked, she was soon able to breathe easily. The ambulance then arrived and took her to hospital.

This experience was a major learning curve for me – as well as having to overcome communication barriers in an emergency situation, I had to learn how to act quickly under pressure.

Cultural differences

It made me realise that, as nursing students, we have to be prepared to act at all times. I also realised that it is okay to be nervous in situations such as this, and that it was important to know my own limitations – as a nursing student, I could only perform tasks within my competence to ensure patient safety.

My time in Sri Lanka also taught me more about different cultures, and how being more aware of patients’ cultural differences could help improve my practice in the UK.

Reflecting on this experience helped me to process what happened – despite my nerves, I feel proud that I stayed calm and focused and was able to help someone who was critically unwell.

This experience increased my self-confidence, and my confidence in my abilities. I am just glad that I was in the right place at the right time to be able to help.


Kirsty Wallace graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2017 and now works as an emergency surgical nurse in Antrim Area Hospital in Northern Ireland 

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs