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I’m currently studying at UCLan, in my final year of Children’s Nursing. I decided to opt into the extended placement, so I will be finishing the final four months of my degree in practice. I am based on the neonatal unit at Royal Preston Hospital and once I have graduated in September, this is where I have secured a job as a staff nurse.
On the neonatal unit, the team care for unwell and premature babies, as well as babies born with a variety of health conditions. The unit I am on is called a ‘Level 3’ unit, meaning we look after some very poorly babies, who sometimes need to be on a ventilator.
A typical day on a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) consists of feeds; these can be oral or via a nasogastric tube which goes from the nose to their tummy; respiratory care, if they need help with their breathing such as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), high flow oxygen, mouth care and skin integrity checks, as premature babies have very fragile skin, so it is important to regularly check the skin to make sure it is intact. We administer medicines, which again can vary, fluids and lastly, lots of cuddles for those who are well enough.
As I am on the neonatal unit, it is classed as a low risk area. There are however, some red areas (which means suspected or confirmed COVID-19), for example if a mother has been confirmed as suffering from COVID-19, the baby will then be suspected for COVID and will stay on the unit. I know on children’s wards and on my previous placement if a patient has been exposed to COVID-19 or is symptomatic (displaying classic COVID symptoms) we treat them as suspected and that is when we wear enhanced PPE, including FFP3 masks, gowns, visor, goggles and gloves. I became unwell a few weeks ago with COVID-19 but luckily I got off lightly and was back to myself within 14 days and back to work, although I know for others this unfortunately hasn’t been the case.
The best part of my job is when babies get to go home, especially those who have had a rough start. It’s even more lovely if you’ve been at their delivery, which can sometimes be quite hectic, for example if the birth is via emergency Caesarean. It’s lovely watching parents have their first cuddle and being part of those first special moments and the first couple of days of life.
The worst part of my job is when sometimes babies don’t get to go home. Unfortunately, in reality this does sometimes happen. It is also difficult to see babies have an uncertain start and it can sometimes be touch and go, as well as being deeply distressing for the parents, it is also really upsetting for the staff too. This is why it is so important to support each other. A huge part of the job is being there to support each other, as well as the parents and families of the babies. Currently things are even more stressful due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so that can make work quite stressful as the situation, guidelines and procedures are changing daily, so it can be extra difficult to deal with.
Find a good support network and stick with them, they will be the ones who will be there, even on the toughest days and who will encourage you to keep going. Push yourself, you can do anything that you want to do if you work hard enough. The end is always in sight, no matter how far away it seems.
I never thought I would be four months away from finishing my nurse training and starting my dream job, but even though it has taken me six years, I am here because I was determined enough to stick with it and never give up, no matter how hard it got.
You may fail assignments, exams, or you may not get into the university you desperately want to, but that’s okay, it’s not the be all and end all, you can learn from it – pull on your positivity pants and work for what you want.
I would also say, don’t wish away your years at College, because once you leave, you’ll really wish you could go back! Your tutors really are there to help you, so use their support, listen to their advice and believe me when I say that it will see you way into the future. Believe it or not, your teachers will play one of the most valuable roles in your time through College and even into university.
Good luck to all you future and current Health and Social Care students!