12 January, 2021


I wrote a round up post at the end of my first year of studying nursing, so thought I’d do another rounding up my second year. Not sure where that year went?! I thought first year went quickly, but second year was even quicker… even during a pandemic!!

This year was definitely the most challenging of the two. Whilst of course the covid-19 pandemic contributed mostly to it being challenging, I have been told by many other students/nurses that second year was the most challenging for them too, the second year slump as they call it! Now I am out the other end though, I certainly know that the year was worth it and the end is sooooo close, it really is in sight now – so if you’re reading this during a particular challenging time of your second year, YOU HAVE GOT THIS! So into more of the nitty gritty of the year…

My year structure is slightly different due to being a January cohort, so I started second year, as we all did, blissfully unaware of what was to come. The first week was, as always, induction and the next 7 weeks our first module, which focused on the holistic care of long-term health conditions. Long-term conditions covered were:

As well as skills which were:

After this theory block, I went into what was meant to be an 8 week placement block, but turned out to be only 3. The first two weeks I spent in a GP surgery with the practice nurses, which I absolutely loved. This was a great placement following a long-term condition module and really solidified learning in areas such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and COPD. I got involved in lots of dressings, administering IM injections, clinics and even got to sit with the Advanced Nurse Practitioners which was super interesting. The continuity of care was great and I really started to understand how holistic nursing care can be and the importance of communication in nursing; patients really do rely on their healthcare team for more than just their medical needs, but a lot for social and mental health too. I then went onto a ‘six week’ district nursing placement, however was pulled out after just one week due to covid and was truly gutted about this. After only one week I had learnt SO much and thoroughly enjoyed treating patients in the comfort of their own homes. I enjoyed primary care so much more than I thought I would, and the nurses amazed me with their autonomous working and in depth knowledge.

The next few months were a bit of a blur and I feel like my degree kind of lost focus through the early days of covid. Throughout March-May I completed my long-term condition 4000 word essay, I chose to do this on Myasthenia Gravis after a neuro placement in first year. I also studied for the second drug calculation exam which I sat in May, from home, so weird! I also worked a lot over this time in my bank healthcare role, and ended up contracting covid myself, so the time flew by and before we knew it we were in June and starting the next module!

The second module was recognising and responding to the acutely ill patient. I had been looking forward to this for a long long time and I was quite annoyed that it had to be done online, as online learning certainly isn’t the same as in real life. But I still loved this module and found it so fascinating. This module had A LOT to it, and it seemed as if we absolutely flew through it, we completed all of the below in 7 weeks!! Usually this module is assessed by a scenario based speaking exam, but due to covid we chose a scenario and wrote a 3000 word essay on the management of the deteriorating patient using the ABCDE approach. For my essay I chose myocardial infarction. The module was cleverly broken up into the ABCDE approach and each letter of the acronym had subsections of learning, so the topics covered overall were:

Skills sessions were completed through online activities and research, this did give some learning, though certainly was not the same as completing skills at university. Skills for this module were:

After this theory block, we had three weeks annual leave, which I worked only part time through to gear me up for the next 5 months of placement! We had such a long placement block because our whole year had been switched around due to covid. First up I had 5 weeks on a Diabetes ward; the first few days I felt like I had forgotten everything as I hadn’t been on a hospital ward since the end of Oct 2019, 10 months!! Though I quickly got back into the swing of it and this placement was great for consolidating care of the deteriorating patient knowledge; using track and trigger tools such as NEWS2, lots of IV medication/fluids, insulin, VRIII (sliding scale), syringe drivers, wound dressings and much much more. I then had 4 weeks on a renal and endocrine ward, which was actually very similar to the previous ward due to the speciality. On this ward I started to take my own bay of patients under supervision and really felt that I had made a lot of progress in the management of patients and making decisions in comparison to year one where I mainly took on nursing tasks under instruction. That concluded my core placements, which seemed mad and was over with so quickly, and from there I had 4 x 2 week insight placements to conclude second year.

The first of my insight placements was on a respiratory ward where I saw a lot of NIV (non-invasive ventilation) and helped with airway management learning. Then 2 weeks on an oncology day unit, where patients came to receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy. I thoroughly enjoyed this placement and found it such a positive and uplifting environment. Though I was not allowed to be involved in the administering of drugs, I had a lot of practice in PICC line dressing changes and loved having the time to chat to patients about their cancer journey and just general life, and of course make them the all important cup of tea!

From there, I spent 2 weeks on a frail and acute short stay medical ward for the elderly. This ward was SO busy. It also had 4 cardiac monitors, which provided for a great learning opportunity. Due to the nature of the ward, there was a lot of learning in the admissions and discharge process. Finally, to round up my second year I had one of the most AMAZING placements with a cardiothoracic transplant team. My time with this team included transplant assessment clinics with the consultants and specialist nurses, ward medication teaching sessions with post-transplant patients, post-transplant assessment clinics, heart failure clinics and fortunately for me the opportunity to watch a heart transplant; which was absolutely the most interesting and amazing thing I have ever been able to witness. Our bodies never cease to amaze me, but seeing this first-hand proved just how extraordinary are bodies and modern medicine truly is.

Second year slump and managing the workload
As I previously mentioned, I really did struggle with the second year slump and found it challenging to keep going at times. 40 hour placement weeks to make up for lost hours through covid, busier than ever wards, uni work to complete on top of that and a part time job, I really did start to burn out by the end of the year – in fact, I probably was burnt out by the end of the year.

To keep on top of everything I made sure to have structured days off, and writing realistic to-do lists for the week and breaking it down for each day. If I have too much to do at once, I simply won’t get it done because I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, so little and often certainly gets the job done for me. Normally, I like to switch off with reading or watching TV but my brain was SO full at the end of last year that I could barely manage either of those, as I just could not focus. There was so much going on because of a worldwide pandemic that before uni/placement/work my brain was mush anyway, so cramming it full with all of that made it a real struggle at times, but I am so glad I got through it! To relax I either went on long walks where I didn’t really need to think or had a bath. Both of these required absolutely no thinking and allowed me to process all of my thoughts!

Writing essays from home with only online library access was hard too, but I learnt that the best way was to write a draft and then spend a bit of time collating references to use throughout the essay beforehand, rather than finding references to fit what you want to say as you go along. This also allows you to check that you are collating a variety of reference sources, such as e-journals, books or policies, rather than all the same.

I also think that this year was just a crazy crazy year for all students on placement, no matter what year. Though we were meant to be supernumerary, some days that just was not possible due to staffing shortages because of covid, meaning some days were impossible to fit learning into. Though I would say that actually all experiences you can learn something from, it just may be that you don’t get a specific skill or a new learning goal that you need to tick off done that day, keep pestering to get skills ticked off if you find yourself in that position!

Highs and lows
I have used pretty much most of the same as first year, as I think these pretty much remain the same throughout, plus or minus a few!



A few tips for placement to get the most out of your experience
The new assessor/supervisor system for placement is great for a few reasons. I think it is fab being able to work with different people to pick up on their working styles, listening to how they communicate with patients/families, different knowledge and also not being restricted to one persons working rota. I have definitely found placements to be more flexible with working hours as you can work with anybody now.

However, it is harder to settle in to an area if you are working with somebody different every single shift! Especially if you get put with somebody that clearly does not want to work with a student. If you are confident enough and feel that you work well with certain members of the team, ask to work with them at the start of the shift, this has a real impact on your learning and placement experience.

And of course, as I say to anybody, get involved with everything and anything! If you hear of something happening, just ask to be involved – the worst that they can say is no. But I really do think the more keen you make yourself look, the more likely people are to consider you for other learning opportunities and to come to you when something exciting is going on that you maybe didn’t know about. As a paid staff member this opportunities don’t really arise, so make the most of it as a student!

So that concludes me second year round up, what a year!! As always, please do contact me if you have any questions – you can comment on here, or find me on Instagram!

Frances x

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  1. Danielle says:

    I cannot imagine what it must be like working for free during the middle of this pandemic!

    Danielle xx

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