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My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Laura Ecclestone

Released on - 29/09/2020

My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Laura Ecclestone

My first year at university: expectation vs reality by Laura Ecclestone

My name’s Laura Ecclestone. I’m in my third year at Oxford Brookes University and studying to become an Operating Department Practitioner. I attend placement at Nuffield health Taunton/ NHS Musgrove park.

I’ve absolutely loved my training. Of course COVID-19 has added extra pressures but it’s also been a great learning experience. Everyone has been so supportive and made changes to accommodate us.

This is a course you must love and be passionate about. You need to be dedicated to becoming the best practitioner you can possibly be for your patients.  It’s hard work and there are challenging times but if you asked me would I do it again, knowing what I know now, I would say “yes, where do I sign?” in a heartbeat.

Before I started my course, I expected to spend a lot of time in placement turning my hand to different skills and being exposed to different environments. I also expected lectures and skill sessions to help me learn the theory and safely practice new skills 

Looking back on my first year, I feel as though my time was split well between lectures and placement. Sometimes I felt that the placement and the teaching didn’t directly correspond – for example, I remember studying learning skills for recovery at uni after I’d covered it on placement. The most important thing was that we cover everything though and it must be so difficult to plan everything to coincide at exactly the same time.  

When I went into placement, I’d expected to be supernumerary and allowed to learn and practice skills in a real life setting under direct supervision. I expected I’d be treated professionally and that my peers would be happy to help me.

Luckily this is what happened! I think my biggest concern was that I found my recovery placements were a little limited. At the time this made me feel quite anxious as it’s an area where you work more autonomously compared to anaesthetics and scrub

Most of the people I’ve met whilst I’ve been in placement have been amazing and so supportive. I found that a lot of my placements were self-guided as the practice educator at the hospitals left me to organise myself. On a few occasions, at the start of a new placement, I turned up to find that no one was expecting me so I wouldn’t have shifts allocated. This was a little daunting to begin with, but in the end I enjoyed it as it allowed me to go to where I needed in the department to achieve the competences I needed.

As an ODP student you need to be resilient, resourceful and organised. My top tip would be never be afraid to speak up and ask questions that will progress your learning. There have been chances where I missed asking a question because I was a little shy. But equally, learn when it’s appropriate to ask  questions …. If a student ODP is asking what, why and how when a patient is having a cardiac arrest, it’s not appropriate!

Also, keep on top of your academic work and keep a diary of daily events with brief descriptions to allow you to reflect on practice. This is a really important part of your learning journey, and it’s also a really nice thing to be able to look back on and see how far you have come.

And last but by no means least, enjoy every single second of the experience!

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