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Learning the ways of the ward

By Josh Jennings

Each day brings new opportunities for growth for nursing students, writes Josh Jennings.

Nursing student Emily Baldwin says the job continually exposes her to new professional experiences. One she vividly remembers is the first time she removed a cannula from a patient.

It had been inside them for some time and the tape holding it in place was "all over the place". The patient's particularly hairy arms exacerbated the problem, Baldwin adds.

"You don't want to inflict pain on anyone, but at the same time you have to get the technique right and you're faced with all sorts of challenges."

Getting to overcome challenges is intrinsic to the satisfaction Baldwin derives from nursing. "I think a lot of what nursing is, is confidence. There are a lot of techniques in nursing, and to learn them you actually have to get in and do it with your hands."

Baldwin is completing the final year of a bachelor of nursing degree at the University of Technology, Sydney. Now that the end is in her sights, she says she's feeling optimistic about completing what remains of her course.

And she has several clinical placements ahead of her, offering more experience.

The pathways into nursing are diversifying. Baldwin didn't complete high school but entered university through the Educational Access Scheme, an entry alternative for those who have experienced circumstances detrimental to their education.

Baldwin initially enrolled in an undergraduate medical science course (with aspirations to eventually switch to medicine), but soon discovered she had an aptitude and fondness for chemistry. She switched to a forensic chemistry course (part time for two years), but resolved that science in general couldn't scratch her itch to have a career where she could help people face to face.

She says transferring to nursing was the right choice. "You get to effect more change at a grassroots level."

A highlight as a student is the recognition she has received during clinical placements. During one, she says, she made a significant impression on the staff.

"It was a very challenging ward - a mental health ward - and I'd tried really hard to make a positive contribution, and my facilitator told me that the nursing unit manager and staff had passed on to her how impressed they were with my skills and contribution. To receive feedback like that was really affirming."

Baldwin is still to decide what type of nursing she will concentrate on. "You'll go out on a clinical placement in a paediatric hospital and have an amazing time and think, 'Oh, I want to go into paediatric nursing now.'

"And then you'll go into a mental health facility ... and it will just open your eyes ... they're the two I'm pondering at the moment, but there are so many other things that interest me, too."


Published: 16 February 2013

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