Student Grant Byrne, discusses his second year on the BSc (Hons) Nursing at QMU and his placements with the NHS.

During my studies, I have found placements to be a place for me to find my feet and get to grips with the essential skills we rely on as nurses. They offer a taste of life in our future role and form a central and enjoyable part of nurse education. They were daunting starting out, but for me and all students they are a time of “firsts” where we proudly master new skills and flex our nursing knowledge in a safe and supportive environment.

My placements in second year will be hard ones to beat. At QMU, Year 2 placements are split between medical and surgical units, one each over the two semesters, providing a broad view of nursing care in the acute sector. I was fortunate to be placed on two units during periods of high demand – a respiratory ward at the height of flu season, and an orthopaedic surgery ward after a long stretch of icy weather. Both gave me a first-hand view of the hard work that goes into keeping hospitals running smoothly at the busiest times of the year.  

Diving into the world of respiratory medicine, I got to see the impact of common respiratory infections such as flu, during the winter period, and got to grips with the lived experience of individuals with chronic health conditions. During my time on the ward I was able to benefit from an in depth exploration the effects of such illnesses including asthma and COPD. It also allowed me to see first-hand how individuals learned to manage their conditions. A huge part of our ongoing role as nurses centres on health promotion, working with people to find ways to live well with long-term illness. My time in respiratory gave me the opportunity to acquire and improve skills in this area that are essential when promoting healthful behaviour. This was useful when it came to infection control, particularly in preventing the spread of flu by educating patients, staff and visitors alike when entering the ward.  

My next placement on a surgical ward brought further lessons. I was offered a range of opportunities to build on my core nursing skills, those important abilities that we all pick up in our first year. Clinical tasks such as observations, wound care, medication management and personal care formed big parts of the working day and allowed ample time to build my confidence in key areas of practice. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to go to theatres, a common experience on surgical wards, which helped me get to grips with anatomy and physiology in a new and exciting way. Witnessing surgery gives you an improved grasp of surgical procedures and deepens your understanding of the issues that can arise post-surgery, particularly pain.

During both placements, I was well supported throughout my time in practice by my QMU placement supervisor. We had the opportunity to attend group discussions that took place every two weeks and that offered the opportunity to link up with my peers and discuss my experiences on placement. This gave all of us the chance to reflect on the good and the bad, and to learn more from our time on placement. It was a great way to catch up with friends from university while also offering a supportive forum to discuss and work through any issues encountered in practice. While I had two great placements, it was good to hear how others were doing and often helped signpost me to opportunities for learning while on the wards.

Throughout both placements I took on greater responsibility for patient care than first year, and I got a real sense of my learning coming together as I applied my knowledge from lectures to patient care. Looking back, I’m struck by how much I knew, and placements really do show you how much you’ve picked up from classes, even when you feel like you’ve still got a lot to learn. Now in my third year, I can’t say I would change anything about my second-year placements. QMU has structured the course really well to support your practice experiences and I loved my placements from beginning to end. While there’s no denying placements are hard work, they are incredibly rewarding and informative, and I implore every student nurse to jump in and make the most of their time on placement.  


Find out more about the BSc (Hons) Nursing course at QMU by clicking here.


Grant Byrne

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