It’s January…January 2019 – the year I will qualify as a Registered Children’s Nurse and I cannot put into words how quickly this has come around.
Since my last blog I have enjoyed a beautiful Christmas break including a budget mini break to the beautiful city of Copenhagen, enjoyed some much-needed time relaxing with those closest to me and no escaping it – spent some time chipping away at that daunting dissertation. (This was made substantially easier with a steady supply of festive treats. Future Dissertation Acknowledgements: Salted Caramel Mince Pies and Celebrations (excluding Bounty) DISCLAIMER: Other chocolate brands are available).
The life of a Student Nurse can be quite hectic but despite how busy it seems – taking time out to wind down, and take mental space from your assignments can be a really positive thing and this has certainly helped me to keep pushing though. It’s not about how many hours you while away on an assignment or exam preparation – but more the quality of the hours you put in.
But that’s quite enough resting – 3rd Years started back with 1.5 weeks of Simulated Practice on the 2nd January, so this blog is all about our Simulated Practice modules- how they develop our clinical skills, prepare us for practice and a small amount about Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE). The latter; a clinical, communication and teaching assessment technique utilised by numerous Nursing Schools (including City) as well as future employers in ongoing post-registration training.
Simulated Practice is a module run every year at City and incorporates Mandatory Training required to undertake clinical placements, preparation towards the OSCE- which is how these modules are assessed and graded each year, and further clinical and soft skills to support our personal development and practice.
Every year we cover numerous sessions that are a documented requirement prior to us undertaking our allocated clinical placements. These sessions only cover us to undertake these skills within the remit of Student Nurse in our clinical placements. If alongside your Nursing course you undertake paid work as a Healthcare Assistant or Support Worker – or indeed wish to use these skills in any other capacity e.g. First Aid for an event or as part of other part-time employment- you will need to seek the relevant training elsewhere. Whilst it seems a little counter intuitive to restrict these skills, this is because the University cannot cover you for incidents arising outside of your clinical placements. (Though obviously – in an emergency situation, should you possess CPR or First Aid skills you would not be penalised for putting them to use in the outside world).
These sessions include:
- First Aid
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)/ Basic Life Support (BLS)
- Manual Handling
- Fire Safety
Lots of Students consider undertaking First Aid training prior to undertaking the Child Nursing Programme. It is by no means essential and can be quite costly. Your school/college may at some point run a free or discounted course but if this is not an option you could consider choosing work/volunteering/extra-curricular activity that can support you in obtaining this training as well as building experience working with children/ young people e.g. Scouts, Guides, Cadets, Child Care or even Life Guarding. You may also want to look at joining a First Aid Charity – some offer the opportunity to volunteer as a First Aider at major UK Events and Music Festivals).
Supporting Clinical Practice
As well as providing our Mandatory Training, Simulation offers us the chance to have a practice run at experiences that we might face in real practice. These may consist of classroom-based sessions, learning how to staff a rota or writing a care plan/discharge plan for scenario patients.
More often we take these sessions in our Simulation Wards (See: www.city.ac.uk/health/facilities/simulated-practice)
Simulation Ward sessions can involve role playing as patients (or parents!) for your colleagues (yes – we do get to have a little lie down in class sometimes!) In 2nd Year we were given Pre and Post-Surgical Patient/Parent Scenarios and were able to practice our Pre and Post-Operative care as if we were on a real Surgical Ward.
There is a limit to what we can practice on one another nowadays – gone are the days of passing NG tubes through your mates’ nose! So, for more invasive skills and more complex care scenarios, we have a variety of mannequin patients. Some of which can be linked up to provide breathing sounds or even a verbal answer.
At City we really benefit from well-placed Simulation classes – we currently receive 2 weeks in 1st and 2nd Year and 4 weeks in 3rd Year, allowing us a good amount of practice in a safe, controlled environment before we face the realities of our clinical placements. I feel this really helps with your confidence when it comes to giving your first injections, or passing your first NG tube, or even your first resus with real patients.
Preparing for an OSCE
As much as our teaching is preparing us for clinical placements and practicing as a Children’s Nurse, we are also expected to be able to demonstrate these skills for an examination in Spring each year (Current Undergraduate Programme). In Year 1 and 2, we are expected to be able to perform and talk through the rationale of a given clinical skill. We are advised in advance what skills we might expect to see on the exam. In Year 3, we are expected to demonstrate the teaching of the given clinical skill to a Junior Student.
Prior to the OSCE, we are given Clinical Skills sessions – some individual to a skill with theory and time to practice – some mixed sessions where we rotate around a variety of skills. In 3rd Year we are also afforded a Mock Exam where we assess one another and provide feedback.
Outside of the Clinical Skills suites we have access to an online Clinical Skills teaching resource (Elsevier Clinical Skills), which includes background information, checklists, and even demonstration videos.
There are many popular Clinical Skills textbooks available for this also – listen out for recommendations from the lecturers, check your reading list and of course, Level 5 of the fantastic City Library. Many of our resources are available online or have a plentiful library supply meaning buying textbooks is not essential.
I loved “Clinical Skills in Children’s Nursing” (Edited by Imelda Coyne, Freda Neill and Fiona Timmins) and it came recommended by one of the lecturers I have learnt best from, so I purchased a copy with my Student Discount, and it remains the only book I’ve bought on the course!
It’s always best to wait until you’re on the course (however excited you might be about commencing your course!) because: 1) your course will make current recommendations but also, 2) you can go and physically look at the books in the library, and find the one that best suits your learning style.
Be aware that some skills and information is updated or changed over time – even whilst I’ve been on my course some of the skills have changed! It is important, even as a Registered Nurse, to aim to keep on top of current evidence through journals and recent, updated publications – so be careful where you source your revision materials – always follow the method taught in class.
The idea of an observed practical assessment can seem quite daunting to some, but it’s important to remember that these are skills you will have practiced in class and/or on placement many times before, and they’re not expecting anything out of the ordinary – just for you to safely and confidently perform the skill, demonstrate sound knowledge of the rationale behind the procedure and be able to reflect on your own performance.
Here’s 5 Top Tips to help you rock your OSCE:
- Prepare and prepare again– I plan out the weeks leading up to the exam to thoroughly cover each skill, in which I’m sure my lecturers would deem to be a ridiculous level of detail. I build up a note book or folder containing all these skills – almost like a mini textbook. I leave a few weeks to spare towards the end of this revision plan, and in the week or two before the exam I drop these detailed notes down to simple flashcards of essentials and cover multiple skills in one revision session.
- Do not cram! – You all know what I mean – I did 3 Science A Levels, if I told you I didn’t frantically pace my bedroom sobbing out equations and formulas the night before an exam, I’d be lying to you. But dragging yourself into a written exam with bags under your eyes bigger than a Year 7s bag on PE day, that’s a whole different matter to doing so in a Practical Exam where you must present yourself professionally and perform a physical skill. (Though I do not advise this technique for any exam or deadline!) Take time to wind down and relax the night before to ensure you get a full, quality night of sleep. If that requires you to pop on a novelty polar bear sheet mask, Spongebob Onesie, and sing along with Bridget Jones like you don’t have neighbours – then do it! Whatever a relaxing night in is for you! Encourage your cohort to do the same by amusing them with Boomerangs of your crazy sheet mask and not by Whatsapp guessing what skills might come up/ what skills you are dreading! Positivity and relaxation – not typing like a crazy kitty!
- There’s no marks for speed – Yes, you do need to try and see the skill through to completion in the allocated time, but I find clinical skills are rather like shoelaces – the faster you try to do them the more impossible they seem, the more it looks like you must be wearing some sort of invisible boxing gloves, and the more flustered and panicked you both become and appear! Pace yourself – take a deep breath!
- Pack your bag the night before I know right? I should get this on a T-Shirt, I blog it so much! It’s getting out of hand. However, for the OSCE you need to be in full and correct uniform, and in possession of a pen, fob watch and your University ID card (and minus the fancy nails you got over the Easter Holidays). Save yourself the panic and have all these things in place the night before.
- “Let them bring on all their problems, I’ll do better than my best!” Walk into the OSCE exam in a positive frame of mind – not quite the suitcase swinging trot through Salzburg I’m quoting here – but a belief that you can do this! I pop away the flash cards a few hours before the exam and focus on a good breakfast or lunch, numerous laps of a Mario Kart (avoiding Rainbow Road which is an obvious confidence crusher!), and blast my best motivational Spotify playlist en route to the University (replace with your personal best activities to unwind). You may want to try a meditation app, adult colouring, reading, taking a walk…whatever helps take your mind fully off the OSCE for just a short while. What you don’t know at this point, you likely won’t in the exam – so deep breath, big smile – think of how fab you’ll feel when it’s over!
And that’s me all out of wisdom for January – next week I start my FINAL EVER NURSING PLACEMENT – the GIGANTIC 13 Week Management Placement! Super exciting! See you all soon with an update and some top tips for preparing for clinical placement!