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My first hospital placement: Emma Goodwin

Released on - 01/02/2021

My first hospital placement: Emma Goodwin

My first hospital placement: Emma Goodwin

My name is Emma Goodwin and I’m a first-year student based at Hull University in East Yorkshire.  I have recently started my first placement at Scunthorpe General Hospital. Due to COVID-19, I am moving to Goole Hospital for my second semester because they are still running full lists. I hope to return to Scunthorpe at the end of my semester.

It sounds crazy but the fact that we were in the middle of a pandemic didn’t really hit me until I arrived at my placement and saw what was going on! I was still really nervous at the start of my placement. Walking into a strange environment where you’re not sure where to put yourself and you’re scared to touch anything can be quite daunting! However, I was still excited. I’ve dreamt of working in a theatre environment since I was a young child. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s difficult getting the image from TV shows of how a theatre runs out of your head, compared to what you actually see!

I first went into placement for an induction and to have a look around. I arrived with two other students early morning and met up with the CPE (Clinical Educator). He kindly took the time to show us all round. I met one of my mentors and even got to observe a Gynecology case! We’d had lectures that went through the basics and how to act in a professional way but I felt so new to everything.

The staff at the hospital have all been absolutely fantastic. As a first-year student, everything you look at is terrifying – not knowing what equipment does, not understanding what they’re doing to a patient and so on. My mentors and other members of the perioperative team have all been so kind. They’re guided me through the processes and explained everything to me in a clear and patient way. COVID-19 has affected all of the staff in different ways, but they’re all dealing with constant changes to a system that some of them have been practicing for years. They’ve all done so well in adapting to the circumstances created by COVID-19.  Even just basic things like having to wear masks throughout their entire working day. It’s also very difficult communicating with patients as well as frustrating because of all the PPE they have to wear. 

The staff are working so hard and the fact that some have taken on students too amazes me! Even when they’ve been under stress, they have been able to assist me with my learning in all aspects. I feel as though the pandemic means that even doing the most basic job proves difficult now. Sometimes the rules can literally just change overnight, for example, some staff might come into work in the morning to find that they are having to recover patients in a theatre.

I can’t even imagine what it was like before COVID-19 because I’ve not really been able to observe practice as it would normally be.  There have been a few times where I have had to ask the question “but what if we weren’t in a pandemic?” For example, our policy now is to intubate patients in the theatres, and this has been a massive change to normal practice. There’s also all the various types of PPE we have to wear.

I have learnt so much, even with all elective cases being cancelled. It’s been absolutely amazing! I’ve developed a good routine of being able to scrub up and stay sterile (I cannot count the number of times I‘ve forgotten I’m sterile and gone to itch my face!). I’m beginning to get an understanding of lots of instruments and I’m getting closer to being able to scrub up for Cesarean Sections by myself too. I now know the basic anesthetic principles and I’m able to fully assist with intubation. I absolutely love waking up in a morning and being able to check the machines myself. 

As the theatres are generally a lot quieter now with most electives being cancelled, sometimes nothing’s happening in the theatre that my mentors have been assigned too. When this happens I can ask to observe in another theatre or just simply ask another member of staff if I can follow them for the next few hours. Don’t get me wrong, theatres ARE busy for others, just not for me as a student.

It’s been invigorating watching staff adapt and be able to change their practice to suit the pandemic to not only protect patients, but themselves too. Being a part of this will aid me in my future practice and give me the confidence I will need around an infectious disease. Being able to watch my mentors suit up into their PPE so quickly and scrub up has really been eye opener for me.

I think the part of placement I’ve found most challenging is to remember that I have another 2 and a half years of studying to do. I try to take in way too much information in at once and punish myself for not understanding things. I’m working hard on focusing on just being a first-year student and learning more of the basics, and actually enjoying learning new things every time I come into theatre for the day!

My next goal is to pass my first year and reflect on as much of my practice I can. I want to try and get as involved in everything as I possibly can! I always strive to do my best and work upwards and it’s important not to let anything get in the way of this and to remember that there are always people I can talk too. I am very fortunate to have stayed in placement all the way through my first semester and I am very lucky to be surrounded by lovely and supportive people.  

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