Driving your own learning in practice!

#HelloMyNameIsZoeP. I am the field lead and teaching fellow within the children’s nursing programme and wanted to share some thoughts with you about driving your own learning. Aliyah elegantly shared her thoughts on this from a student perspective and I absolutely echo all of Aliyah’s ideas and tips in relation to this. I guess what I wanted to show was that we acknowledge the challenge of being in practice in the middle of a pandemic and that learning in practice may look different, but it is still there for you…you just need to know how to grasp it!!!

So, the first thing is really to be prepared for your placement and what this might involve- this is obviously easier if you have been on the placement before and know that the learning opportunities were. If this is a new placement then do some research- just a quick google search or ask one of your fellow students; this will help you to see what a ward area is about or what a role involves. This will allow to really start to think about what it is you want to achieve from the placement and how you might go about it. You can then share these ideas with your supervisors and assessors at the start of the placement.

When on the placement, it is important to use your initiative and seek out learning opportunities- they are not always handed to you on plate!!! With COVID-19, it can be more difficult to arrange visits and short placements to other areas, departments or with other staff members but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities for you within the areas you are working. It is important to keep your ears open and eyes peeled for what is going on and when…..and don’t be afraid to ask to be involved- the worst that can happen is you are told ‘no’ but staff will really appreciate you putting yourself out there and wanting to learn.

Of course, not everything you need to learn will be big and flashy!!! There are times when the area might be ‘calmer’ (notice I didn’t use the ‘q’ word!) and you are struggling to think of what you can do but there is always room for learning…….spending some time with the children, young people and families in your care is always a great starting point as you not only get to do something that you love doing but get to learn from the experience too. There maybe children and young people with long term conditions or complex medical histories that you could talk to in order to gain more knowledge on the topic- this will give you so much more insight into a condition that you can ever get from doing your own research on the topic. Or, you could simply just spend time chatting to a child, young person or family member; it is important to simply learn how to talk and never underestimate the learning within this. If you wanted to do something more practical during those ‘calmer’ times, grab a drug chart and BNFC to practice drug calculations or revise some of the common medications that we come across in children’s nursing or spend some time creating a health promotion board for parents on a chosen topic, practice aseptic technique or another skill you have observed whilst on placement, revise child or adolescent development, immunisation schedules etc, etc. This is where your little notebook in your pocket comes in handy to make some notes!!! Evidence of your learning will be clear to your supervisors and assessors as the more you know about the topic the more you can talk about it and share your knowledge

Reflection is also key to learning and should never be underestimated. I think Melaine might disown me if I tell you there is a model to follow for this and I absolutely agree this is a personal thing. For some of you this might me about some quiet time thinking and for others it might be about writing down what has happened.  In the most basic form, to develop your learning through reflection you need to think about a) what went well? (in that shift or in that episode of care) b) what could I have done better? And C) what will I take forward from this? This should include the positives but also the things that you might change or consider in the future to develop your practice. This reflection can also happen anywhere- a great place for those in the community is when in the car- either with your supervisor or assessor or on your own after a visit on the way back to the base/home. Or post shift on the train or even in the bath…learning from reflection can happen anywhere!!!! You may want to share your reflection with your supervisor or assessor if you feel it is pertinent to do this and this works well if there has been a specific episode of care you have been involved with. If you feel this is a more personal thing, this is also okay as evidence of your learning will show as you progress and develop through the placement as you adapt and make changes based on your reflection. 

I have heard students say to me ‘well that supervisor taught me nothing….all they got to me do was the heights and weights and make some beds’.  My advice here would be to follow in the wise words of Mary Poppins……in every job that must be done there is an element of fun (well in this case learning!!). You may not feel that you are learning through every task you are being asked to do but there is always learning to be doing!!! You are never ‘just’ doing heights and weights… you should be thinking about child development from a physical, social, emotional perspective, you should be considering any safeguarding concerns, engaging with the child and family, documentation, feeding back to your supervisor/assessor. There is so much learning to be gained from the ‘just’ jobs!!! So, whilst you might feel these tasks are basic and mundane, they are far from it- you just need to recognise this and welcome these roles.

I am strong believer that there is always learning to be done (every day is a school day!). You just need to find what this learning is for you and embrace it. If you are struggling to see what the learning is then it is important that you speak with somebody- your supervisor, assessor, personal tutor or practice liaison tutor are all there to support you and develop your learning. Learning and teaching are our passion so use us to help you!!

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students and teaching fellows only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

If you’re interested in writing a blog post for us – whether it’s a one-off about something in Nursing you’re passionate on, or as a regular contributor, please email Chloe Thomas (ct00633@surrey.ac.uk) or Aliya Stratford (as03037@surrey.ac.uk) – we’d love to hear from you!