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My University Experience - Second Year Student: Paul McNaught

Released on - 15/03/2021

My University Experience - Second Year Student: Paul McNaught

My name is Paul McNaught. I’m in my second year of a DipHE Operating Department Practice course at Birmingham City University (Southwest Campus). I’ve been on placement at Plymouth University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. I missed a couple of months from my first year because of the pandemic but fortunately I managed to catch up around Christmas.

Over the last 12 months my learning has been mostly remote. There have been just two face to face sessions to cover mandatory training in Basic Life Support, and moving and handling. 

I’ve found remote learning really tricky. It’s far easier to stay focused when you’re in the same room as your lecturer and don’t have kids running around! Having said that, the lecturers have been really good at dynamically developing different online learning techniques. A particular favourite within the group is the use of Kahoot quizzes. They really help reinforce what we’ve learnt at the same time as bringing in a bit of fun.

Staying motivated has been hard at times, especially with the bioscience modules we’re currently covering – they’re so long! With operating department practice we spend most of our year in placement with small teaching blocks of 2-4 weeks when we’re out of placement. This approach really helps with motivation because we’re often with likeminded people who have finished their training and it reminds us what we’re working towards.  Looking forward to the end of the year when I’ll hopefully be qualified and all my hard work has paid off helps keep me motivated!

 My top tip to other students in the same position is to keep the end goal in mind and remember that everyday you’re out there working hard, you’re one step closer to qualifying.

There have been some positives to remote learning. Perhaps the biggest is that the course leaders have made more time available to discuss the course with us. They’ve been great about asking us how they can improve, taking on board our suggestions and implementing them really quickly. An example of this is that they’ve introduced module Q & A sessions where we can get an instant answer to burning questions instead of us having to ask via email.

As prospective operating department practitioners we work within the 3 key areas of perioperative practice during our training, anaesthetics, surgery and recovery. In my first year I started working surgery in orthopaedics, then anaesthetics for ENT, Max Fax and plastics followed by recovery. Now that I’m starting my second year I’m in recovery until April. 

The university has been very clear that as students we shouldn’t be exposed to COVID-19. They have  worked very closely with the clinical educators within the trust to ensure that we stay within the theatre environment. Luckily the trust is a large one and, where possible, has been continuing surgery throughout the pandemic.

Every clinical area I have worked in has provided me with a full induction and explained all of their procedures to me. I’m quite confident in my abilities and clear on my boundaries, and I’m not afraid to speak up and tell someone if I can’t do something that they have asked of me (Anaesthetists are probably the worst culprits for this because they often don’t realise I’m a student!).  

All the staff within the trust have been so keen to teach me new skills and show me new ways of working and doing things. They’ve also been really open to answering my questions.

Of course working within the NHS during a pandemic has been a challenge. I think the main thing that I will take away from my experience as a student during the pandemic is that being adaptable and dynamic is really important. Being aware that your placement may change last minute or learning a new online platform for teaching to be delivered on. I’ve learnt that being open to these changes really helps to develop skills that can be utilised within the perioperative environment.  

My advice to students going into placement is be open to everything! Most people are really keen to help you to learn and develop but they also tend to respond to your energy. If you’re a quiet person, try to ask questions to show that you want to learn. There are so many opportunities to learn. Even if you’re tired from a long day or have already seen that particular task, go along - more likely than not you’ll be shown a new way of doing something. I suppose the key message is that you get out what you put in! 


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