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Being asked to opt in to complete my nurse training on extended placement to support colleagues and peers during the Covid-19 crisis was not a straightforward decision.
I was under no illusion about what the front line was like, especially after speaking to nurses already in the fight – some of whom likened it to a war zone rather than a hospital. The task has been just as challenging as the decision itself, with many ups, downs and turns to navigate.
With only a few mandatory hours left to complete, it seems fitting to reflect on the reality of what I have seen and done, the impact on my future as a nurse and how I have changed and developed, both negative and positive.
I was surprised but pleased to choose my preferred clinical area in which to complete the placement. This should have been my management placement, which was set to be on my ideal ward.
However, I chose differently, which was a surprise, but I wanted an area where I knew I would be supported, learn a lot, and would feel safe. The fact I was already known to the team was a bonus.
Even so, when making my choice I was forewarned, more than once, that this was a cohort IV ward (in lay terms, an end-of-life Covid-19 ward). This added to the difficult decision but feeling safe and supported was my priority.
The welcome, support and safety experienced has exceeded my expectations. I will not lie, some days are hard and I have had to be more honest than ever about my struggles, but it has been worth it. Those who have checked in have done so more consistently and have kept me going, I am truly grateful.
I am passionate about end-of-life care, which I consider to be an honour and a privilege – something not to be taken for granted and something to be treated sensitively. That has not changed but the way end-of-life care happens because of Covid-19 has.
Loved ones cannot always be with their relatives at the end. We have taken that role more than ever before and have observed doctors and nurses make difficult decisions as to when to call loved ones – timing is everything. End-of-life care during Covid-19 is like nothing I have experienced before and certainly hope to never again.
I asked about some other challenges the ward has had to face, which I have now witnessed and experienced first hand. Doctors being changed every few days is challenging not just for them but for patients and nurses alike. Navigating those changes challenges continuity of care and affects relational aspects of patient care.
Thankfully they are increasingly becoming familiar faces, even with the constant changing, although sometimes I wonder if it is because I have spent three years in the hospital in different clinical areas, so are they familiar to me as a student?
“The duration of placement has meant that I have felt a part of the team and part of a family
Another difficulty that is more than just a news or social media headline is personal protective equipment (PPE), as some days you do not know what will available – guidance changes, supplies become depleted, availability is inadequate or redeployed staff are redeployed again for safety. I cannot entertain the thought of redeploying now and safety is a priority but so is finishing well.
Despite the many challenges I have encountered, there have been a great deal of positives. The duration of placement has meant that I have felt a part of the team and part of a family.
I have also had to ‘grow up’ as a nurse very quickly. What I mean is that I had to quickly develop a certain confidence in managing a group of patients, or the way in which I have escalated patient needs to doctors has needed to be done more efficiently.
Problem solving and adapting to patient changes and deterioration has had to become second nature. I have even been surprised by my knowledge, especially at times when I have felt like I really do not know what I am doing. It turns out this has surprised me more than others.
I will never forget this experience, the many new things I have learnt and what I have seen. But I also know I am grateful for the experience. I know being grateful seems counter-intuitive, but the learning and depth of knowledge developed over the past few months have been second to none.
It is often said the rate and depth to which resilience is built over this time is astounding. That is so true and necessary. I have dug deeper than ever before and found reserves within unlike anything I imagined possible.