Day in the life of a children’s student nurse

Firstly I would like to introduce myself – I’m 20 years old and studying Children’s Nursing in the Midlands. I am about to start my 3rd and final year which is a scary and crazy prospect but extremely exciting as well! I want to give you readers an idea into a day in the life of a student nurse because although it is a university degree unfortunately we do not live the ‘student life’.

Contrary to popular belief us students do actually do something… whether that’s running round like a bewildered chicken flapping around to find the strangely named instruments a doctor is demanding, making so many beds morning noon and night that you could easily get a job at a hotel or making the amateur mistake of following your mentor to the toilet. We have all been there.
My alarm is set at a ridiculously early time and when it goes off I lie there for a minute debating whether my mentor will even realise if I don’t turn up? Maybe if I just take the week off and make up the hours at a later date? Because unfortunately even if we are on deaths door and have to call in sick… we still have to make up those hours or else we will not qualify. So yeah, it’s a hard knock life.

I have somehow rolled out of bed and started the 30 minute trek down to the train station. Thinking the whole way of how I’ll feel much better when the fresh air eventually hits me and I’m wide awake. It’s still dark outside and I’m too scared to put my headphones in so I listen to the rustling of the trees and the occasional car passing by.

I’ve successfully navigated myself on the right train and I’m at handover listening to stories about the patients that have been in the accident and emergency department overnight. Not surprisingly there was at least 5 admissions due to alcohol consumption – sometimes the patients are very merry when they come in and that can be entertaining but it’s when they are violent and angry it all gets too much. Luckily I think we’re in the clear because they are all on drips, fast asleep and hopefully will not be suffering with any bedridden hangovers when they come around!

The first child has entered the A&E department… I repeat THE FIRST CHILD OF THE DAY. Me and my fellow children’s branch student flock to the waddling toddler to do the first set of observations to check how he’s doing. He’s been sent through with persistent vomiting and Mum has gotten very worried that he could in fact be dehydrated. This placement is a general A&E whereby they have a lot more adult admissions than children’s so at any time a child comes in – we take up the opportunity to care for them.

All I am dreaming of at this time of the day is my packed lunch that’s patiently waiting in the staff room fridge. In A&E it is like a free for all – if you leave anything in the fridge without a sticky label and your name on it… do not expect it to be there when you go to sit down. However being the overly keen student I am I follow my mentor down into triage because I haven’t yet experienced his aspect of the department. It is in this little room that we decide whether they need to be taken through to A&E, sent to the GP or sent home.

I call in the first patient – thankful that it is a name I can pronounce because I have had many embarrassing moments standing their scratching my head trying to read someone’s name for no one to respond. The first patient we have in is a 28 year old woman. She begins by telling us that she had a cold so took some olbas oil (at this point in the story everything was sounding perfectly fine). She said the instructions said to put ‘a few drops’ in the water however because of her cold she decided to triple that and put 9 in. (Still this story isn’t sounding too horrendous). However she then states ‘so I followed the instructions and drank it’, both me and my mentor looked at each other and then back at her in shock. We could not believe that the instructions would say such a thing so she took out the pot and although it didn’t say it in such words it is (ish) understandable as to why she thought she could drink it. It was at this moment in time I had to stop myself from laughing because the lady herself thought the whole situation was hilarious and I could not believe she drank 9 drops of olbas oil in hot water. How can that taste remotely nice?!

You’ll be happy to know by this time I have finally been given a lunch break despite my mentor not getting one because it is so busy. I am back on the department and ready for the next patient who is coming through the door. This is one of the things I enjoy about A&E, the unpredictability.

I call a 15 year old boy through to the triage room. When he was walking towards me with his Mum he was quiet and seemed very distant. Once in the room he would not engage in conversation with us and seemed very laid back. His mum spoke on his behalf although I tried throughout to get him to speak to us because getting a story from the patients point of view is always best and I didn’t want him to feel excluded. His mum told us he had faked a seizure at school the day before and been sent home and then today he fainted in school and they requested him come to A&E to be checked over. It was all seeming to be a mystery until we got a urine sample and I performed a drugs test on it. It came back positive for benzodiazepines which is an anti-psychotic that can have a sedating effect on anyone taking it which would explain how this 15 year old had presented.

I took this young boy round to minors and performed an ECG on him, asking if he was happy for Mum to be present as I needed to open his school shirt to put the stickers on. When he took his shirt off I noticed the discolouring to the neck of the shirt – it was black compared to how white you would expect a school shirt to be. He had a bad body odour coming off him and his feet smelt like he hadn’t changed his socks in a while. All of this concerns me a little that he was very unkept – however at the age of 15 it begs the question is it the boys responsibility or should the Mum still be overseeing this and be somewhat to blame for him presenting in this way.

Safeguarding is one of our main roles when looking after children and young people. If we ever see anything that seems not to add up or will put a child at risk it is reported straight away and escalated to the appropriate people. Being a student I felt that I was probably over-thinking the situation and potentially putting the parents through unnecessary hassle but I reminded myself that the child comes first. I escalated my concerns to my mentor.

Only half an hour until hand over time and the day is over. At the start of the day I always predict it is going to drag however I don’t know where the time has gone. I have been busy helping wash patients, comfort them whilst their family members are in resus, carrying out 100+ sets of observations, giving endless syringes full of paracetamol and pushing beds around all day. So I definitely deserve the early finish my mentor is offering me so that I can make it in time to catch the train.

I managed to catch the earlier train and as soon as my bum hits the chair I sink into it with my headphones on and close my eyes. I keep nodding off and suddenly waking up again, afraid I am snoring or even worse… dribbling in front of everyone.

I am finally at home and worrying about the up and coming week of hell. We have an assignment due, an exam and a practical all within the same week! And on top of that we receive our results from a previous assignment at the start of that week… I think they’re slowly trying to kill us off.

I’m awoken suddenly with the desperate urge to go for wee as I had forgot to throughout the day and realise I have passed out on top of my bed still in my uniform. No alarm set, no dinner eaten, no lunch made, lights still on and 4% charge. I count down the hours of sleep I have left until I do it all over again.

Depending on what department you are in depends on the experience you have and the things you learn. This is an average day in the accident and emergency department in an extremely cut down version. Excluding the fear of the red phone ringing and the run down resus, excluding hearing the emergency buzzer going off and having to run around finding who needs help and excluding the fear of having a patient within your care in a position to which they are imminently fighting for their lives.


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