The moment I realised... I wanted to be a nurse

Rachael Palmer explains the moment she realised she wanted to make a difference to patients when they need it most

2 min read

I decided to become a nurse because I wanted to be that person a patient remembers was there for them on every step of their journey and made a difference, big or small.

The moment I realised I was becoming an adult nurse was on my first ever placement on an acute stroke unit in my first year. 

A patient who I had been looking after had had a second stroke in hospital and his family was saying their goodbyes. 

I came in a couple of days later and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his name on the handover sheet. 

I went to see him in my break to say hello and his wife said to him, ‘look who’s here to see you, do you remember Rachael?’ And he opened his eyes and turned his head towards me and said, ‘of course I do.’ 

He went to a community rehabilitation centre later on and after reading their feedback and understanding my part in their journey that was the moment I realised I was becoming a nurse.

My most challenging moment so far has been when myself and another member of staff were re-positioning a patient, a man in his 90's who had a stroke. I looked down and he had started to turn purple and was struggling to breathe. I suspected his airways may be obstructed by vomit because he’d been feeling nauseous that day. I pulled the emergency bell and we put him into the recovery position. 

He recovered with some intervention but afterwards when doing his observations and holding his hand he was really scared and wouldn’t let go. I realised then how privileged we are as nurses to be with people at their most challenging times and that’s really special to me. 

That experience made me think of nursing as a human profession at the most basic level. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, we care for all people from all walks of life. There were 75 years between that man and I but there I was holding his hand and helping him through. 

Unfortunately he passed away a couple of days later but I will never forget the kind words that his wife said to me about the differences we made.

"Through both the personal and professional development made by studying at the University of Plymouth, I was able to demonstrate a passion for holistic nursing care and a determination to be the best nurse I could be.

During my varied clinical placements from acute stroke to community nursing to gynaecology, I got a taster of the huge diversity in nursing both between roles but also within roles. Nursing is more than sometimes the public perceives it to be. Nurses are researchers, leaders, educators and coaches, and it was hugely inspiring. I learnt how to be a safe, effective and compassionate nurse, but I also learnt through placements where that could lead.

Being a student nurse is both a physical and mental demand, but it prepares you for the constant learning you will always be undertaking as a newly registered nurse and beyond. Through practice based learning, you are able to demonstrate cumulatively, the knowledge, skills and attributes required for nursing today. You are expected to take on more responsibility and autonomy as you progress through the programme so that by third year, you are practicing as a nearly qualified nurse with confidence and increasing capability.

I am a newly registered staff nurse working on a haematology unit at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Our patients may be having chemotherapy, blood product support and autologous stem cell transplants, but we also provide palliative and end of life care. 

After having a placement on the haematology unit as a third-year student, I enjoyed getting to know our patients over the long periods of time they would often be with us or visit the unit, and providing holistic nursing care. The pathophysiology and pharmacology of haematological diseases and their treatments was also fascinating, and I was forever asking questions or looking things up. I learnt a huge amount, and really looked forward to going to placement, with a team that went above and beyond for those in their care. 

The best bits of my role are the relationships we develop with our patients. Seeing them come into the day case after a long inpatient stay living well beyond treatment and in remission will always be a highlight, but it’s also a privilege to look after patients and their families in their last days of life, and doing our utmost to make them as person-centred and comfortable as possible."

Rachael palmer nurseing

"The University of Plymouth nursing programme equips you with not just the nursing theory, but with the resilience and personal skills to cope with the demands of the role. You are encouraged to think about the whole picture; the health system, the context in which your patient came to you, about the whole person which enables better, more rounded decision making.

Not only are you a well-rounded nurse, but a well-rounded person due to the multitude of opportunities available through both the school of nursing such as course reps and peer assisted learning scheme leaders, and through the university though societies, sports clubs, volunteering and more."

Rachael Palmer - BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult) graduate

Realise your potential at Plymouth and make a difference to someone’s life when it matters most

Our degree will prepare you to care for adults with acute/long-term illness, in a multitude of healthcare settings. You will be ready to play a vital role in health promotion and disease prevention as well as nursing adults. Working closely with other healthcare professionals, patients and their families, you will gain the necessary experience, competencies and skills needed to join the 1000s of our graduates working as registered nurses.

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