As a student nurse I asked a lot of questions (who am I kidding, I still do as an RN with almost 2 years experience) and I was what some might call nosey about the roles of others. Sometimes this was other nurses, managers or specialist nurses who I wanted to talk to, to gleam some idea of where my career my go, but a lot of the time it was other healthcare professionals who I met in my placement areas, they were the MDT members or the experts who came in to provide much needed input.
I asked to shadow allied health professionals on the ward and in their clinics, I spent time in pharmacy watching how they deal with orders from the ward, I went out into the community to follow up how a patient is supported on discharge and I attended MDT meetings on the ward to see how these professionals integrated their separate roles into the healthcare needs of the patient as a whole.
Occasionally I got sarcastic comments from nurses on the wards or other student nurses about whether I was really training to be a nurse or if I had another career in mind. I would only arrange 2 or 3 shadowing experiences per placement, ranging between an hour and a whole day in length, always with my mentor’s permission so I was fairly confident that I was arranging experiences that were relevant to my learning, but it was hard at times.
On one particular placement, after spending the day with a specialist nurse led rehab team & receiving an ear bashing from a senior nurse on the ward (not my mentor & someone who never respected the supernumerary status of students). I took these comments to heart and didn’t arrange any visits with specialist teams or MDT members. In my final interview my mentor said their only negative comment would be that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities for wider MDT learning available on the ward, for a moment I was shocked and then I was angry and I explained to my mentor the comments I’d received and said as a ward they needed to get better at supporting students to be supernumerary to gain those experiences.
Now that I’m qualified I often find I’m glad that I made time to work with specialist nurses and the wider MDT. When I’m making referrals to allied health professionals I have a better idea of their roles so can put the relevant info into the referral to make sure they know what we (nursing staff & patient) hope to get from them. I feel confident taking part in MDT meetings for patient care planning, not only do I know my role & can advocate for my patients but I also know who I’m working with & what they might be able to offer. When I’m waiting for meds from pharmacy I can temper my frustrations (& those of the patient) by knowledge of the procedures & checks necessary to ensure medications are safely delivered to the wards. Discharge planning is made a little easier by having some knowledge of what the community teams I’m referring to are able to provide and how they work re: assessments etc, I am able to give my patients a bit of an idea what’s going on so as to minimise confusion or disappointment.
As nurses our work is very valuable and we spend a lot of time with our patients, seeing the whole picture not just a compartmentalised view. I really think that my experience working with allied health professionals and specialist nurses has helped me to become a better nurse and I’d really recommend investing the time in learning what your fellow healthcare professionals do. Take advantage of your supernumerary status (and don’t let anyone bully you into thinking it doesn’t exist) and arrange to spend time with AHPs or CNS teams who can enrich your placement experience. You may learn something you can take back to the ward or clinical area that’ll be an improvement for both patients & staff, and you’ll definitely be investing in your future. Be a student nurse in an MDT world and see what’s out there.
Debs Cooper (@DebsCooper131)