Case study

Adult nurse — Ruth Nicholson

Ruth's degree, and the practical experience she gained on her course, prepared her for a career as a nurse on a medical cardiology ward at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital

What did you study and where? 

I studied MSc Nursing (Adult) at Edge Hill University. I learned about anatomy and physiology and different aspects of nursing care. This was done through lectures, seminars and clinical skills sessions. Placements were the best place to practice the skills I'd learned and refine these under appropriate supervision.

What's a typical day like?

A typical shift starts at 7am with handover at the patient's bedside. We then meet to discuss patient care and any issues, before starting patient observations (blood pressure etc).

We then get patients ready to go to theatre, before the doctors arrive for the ward round. Throughout the day we get new patients coming to the ward, going through the admission process alongside the doctors.

After lunch, we do another set of observations. The medication round can involve setting up and administering IV medication. This takes longer as there needs to be two nurses to check the dosage. We liaise with the doctors on the ward, raising any concerns. We also get patients who are being discharged ready for going home.

We do half-hourly observations on patients returning from theatre, checking wound sites as well as blood pressure and heart rate.

At 6pm we do the tea-time medication round. Then we get ready to handover to night staff who arrive at 8pm.

What do you enjoy about your job? What are the challenges?

Often we'll see patients from admission, pre-and post-theatre up until discharge. It's great to be part of a patient's journey. I also enjoy working as part of a team. The doctors and advanced nurse practitioners work well with the nursing staff on the ward to provide effective patient care.

One of the more recent challenges we've faced is keeping families up-to-date about their loved one's progress. This is more difficult during COVID-19 as we're not allowed any visitors on the ward. Part of this involves making sure that each patient is able to speak to their families regularly. If the patient doesn't have a mobile phone, we encourage them to use the ward phone.

How has your role developed?

I'm still in the very early stages of my nursing career, but over the last few months I've really developed my skills and confidence on the ward. In August, when the new junior doctors arrived, I was able to show them the ward routines and help them settle in.

What advice can you give to someone wanting to become a nurse?

  • Seek out any opportunity to broaden your experience. I'm really interested in palliative care, so I'd seek out opportunities to work with specialist palliative care nurses.
  • If you don't know something, or aren't sure, ask. You're a student nurse and you're there to learn.
  • After each shift try to reflect on two things that have gone well and one thing that you would like to improve - two stars and a wish. This is particularly helpful if you've had a challenging shift as it prompts you to focus more on the positives.

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