Jessica is a BSc Children’s Nursing student. She has enjoyed the variety of clinical placements, diversity, and student support offered at City.
Choosing the course and university
What were you doing before you came to study at City, University of London?
I used to work for a charity called WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services) which has the pioneering Maternity Mates project to recruit, train and match-up volunteer Maternity Mates with pregnant women in need of extra support, those who do not have a suitable support network, or have specific needs or healthcare issues.
While there, I worked as a Home Assessor and volunteers coordinator.
How did you develop an interest in Nursing and why did you choose to study this course?
I have always been passionate about human anatomy and the complexity of human beings at physical, mental health and social levels. Since my childhood, I've been fascinated and tried to understand how and why people get sick, with an equally strong desire to acquire knowledge to help sick and vulnerable children in our communities.
Why did you choose to study at City?
When I get asked that question, I don’t have a specific answer; the truth is, I have more feelings than reasons.
When I moved to London my priority was to study, and when I started my search for the best colleges and then universities, I often read news about City, University of London, its reputation and quality of teaching in different courses. Then one day I attended City’s Open Day, in order to inspire me and to see for myself what I read so many times on social networks and in the media.
As expected, I wasn't disappointed, it was magical! Seeing the facilities, the student ambassadors and teachers, it was like everything I had imagined and researched for months materialised in front of my eyes. I was sure that City was where I wanted to study and even though I didn't know anything about the selection process, I knew there and then, that was where my dream was.
Studying Children’s Nursing at City
What has been your favourite thing about studying this course?
100% the diversity. At City you have the honour and opportunity to study with people of different backgrounds, ages and religions, which makes learning very enriching at all levels.
What is your favourite thing about studying at City?
I need to mention the University's reputation again, I feel that students get almost immediate recognition when wearing our City uniform on clinical placements, or when asked which university I attend. This obviously brings some responsibility, but also opportunities in equal measure.
City also offers its students a wide variety of services to support academic success. Namely services such as student counselling, mental health, online webinars for academic skills and, without forgetting, an extensive list of scholarships, bursaries and loans to help students based on the circumstances of each one.
I was extremely lucky to be awarded one and it has been extra help that I wasn't expecting, but it has made a huge difference to my finances and given me the peace of mind I need to focus on my studies.
How have you found the teaching and facilities on your course?
Unfortunately, Covid has had a huge impact on my studies and my access to the facilities. But in general, I am very satisfied with the study conditions available, from seminars, tutorials and practical rooms, all of them combined with the high level of materials and very experienced teachers in clinical and education levels.
Where have you been on your clinical placements, and what have you enjoyed most about these experiences?
I am completely passionate about placements, and have been extremely lucky in all clinical areas that have been offered to me.
My first placement was in the community, in a nursery and lasted 4 weeks. At the time I didn't understand the importance of working in a nursery, because prior to that, I had learnt so much about medical skills I thought I was ready to look after children admitted to hospitals.
The truth is, today I understand the importance of those 4 weeks caring for healthy children in a more relaxed environment. It gave me knowledge in different areas, such as how children interact with each other, communication skills, how healthy children play and behave in general.
Great Ormond Street Hospital
After the nursery placement and still during my 1st year, I attended one of the best placements to date, Great Ormond Street Hospital where I stayed for 8 weeks at the Chameleon Ward. They care for children who need specialist neonatal and paediatric surgery.
They treat congenital (present at birth) conditions as well as conditions of the gastrointestinal system, diaphragm and abdominal wall. Here I learnt most of the skills that are normally part of Year 2. I was immensely lucky to have the best practice assessors and supervisors, a wonderful team who it was so hard to say goodbye to.
Royal London Hospital
In year 2 things got a bit complicated because of Covid, and many of us were deployed to adult wards. I was offered the opportunity to spend 4 weeks at the Royal London Hospital, Cardiology and Haematology adult ward.
I must confess that it was a shock in the early days, the dynamic is nothing like the children’s ward. Your body language, communication skills and even medical skills need to be adjusted accordingly. But the staff nurses were very patient and understanding and I felt very well cared for by the team and I have learnt a lot.
Afterwards, I went back to paediatrics ward, still at the Royal London Hospital in the Respiratory/Haematology and Oncology ward. There I had the opportunity to gain confidence in a number of conditions and gain experience of patients using non-invasive ventilation therapies.
I was also able to observe the importance of a multi disciplinary team in the recovery of patients, and I worked closely with physiotherapists and play specialists.
Paediatric’s A&E Royal London
My final year started with the placement of my dreams, Paediatric’s A&E Royal London, I was there for 5 weeks and I wanted to stay there forever. I learned and gained confidence in endless skills and met inspiring professionals.
There are no equal shifts and in a 12 hour shift you lose count of the number of different situations you are exposed to. You quickly learn the importance of maintaining a consistent level of patient care throughout long shifts and mastering the art of multitasking. I really want to be able to work there one day.
Finally, my last placement was at Homerton Hospital, general/medical ward. Very different from A&E, but equally interesting. During my 5 weeks there I was in a ward where your medical skills are constantly being tested.
When I entered that placement, I focused on learning about management, mental health patients and community referrals (CCNT-Community Children’s Nurse Team), I would say the more bureaucratic side in nursing but equally important.
I was lucky to take care of patients under Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS), Eating Disorder Team, Social admissions and see up close the work of the Ward Manager and Nurse in Charge.
How will these experiences help you with your future career?
City, as I said before, has a huge reputation and has partnerships with the best Trusts in the capital, and as you can see from my placements, I was lucky to learn from the best. And I believe without a doubt that this helped in a positive way to shape the nurse that I will be.
I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given and have gained confidence that will allow me very soon to be a staff nurse, and I believe all the different placements I have taken on my journey have been leading me towards my dream and commitment to becoming a Children's Nurse.
I consider nursing to be a very challenging and demanding profession, involving life-long learning; however, the rewards are immeasurable and I am ready to embark.
What would be your advice to students about to start their first placement experience.
I am a City Mentor, a peer-mentoring scheme that matches current students to new undergraduates to support them through their journey into university, and as a CityBuddy Mentor I have effectively given this advice to my mentees; do not underestimate your knowledge, but above all do not doubt your abilities and good intentions.
In year 1 the staff do not expect you to know everything, nor do they judge when students do not know something, and most importantly they will never leave you alone in situations that require complex skills.
Do your homework, I think it is extremely important to be informed about the Trust you are going to, read about the ward and who the managing team is. What is the specialty and ward capacity. What are the most common illnesses and read over what the most commonly used medications are.
I have always suggested that they should request a visit to the ward beforehand, to introduce themselves, fill in forms if necessary, ID cards or access cards to the ward. If face to face visit is not possible, always call the ward and introduce yourself and ask relevant questions, about your rota for example.
Something I also always emphasize, helping the staff nurse and the ward in general does not only imply taking care of patients and performing medical skills, there is an endless number of things that we as students can do to help and they are not necessarily medical.
Simply making a bed, replacing gloves and aprons, playing/distracting a child while a staff nurse or doctor is talking to the parents or performing a procedure, are sometimes things that we think are insignificant but that are important and help the shift flow for everyone.
Being a nurse is not just taking care of patients, it is also taking care of our colleagues and keeping the ward organised and clean.
Have you overcome any challenges during your studies?
The biggest challenge I face as a university student is achieving academic levels of English and succeeding in my assignments. This area of my studies has been extremely challenging.
English is not my first language and I have also learned a lot. I've been having help through private tuition, to improve my writing skills.
What kind of things are you involved in outside of your course?
In addition to being a student, I am a mother, which is a 24 hour job, full of responsibilities, pains and delights.
Although my family supports me 100%, and my daughters are my source of strength and oasis, it is unavoidable not to feel guilty for often prioritizing studies and placements.
When I'm in placements, long day shifts mean I don't see my youngest daughter who goes to bed at 8.30pm, when I arrive she is already sleeping and this sometimes happens for 2/3 days in a row. Although she has never complained and supports me, it is still a complicated situation to manage.
Despite everything, I believe that with organisation and help from your family, everything is possible. Whenever I'm at home, I make it a point to be as present as possible and enjoy quality time with my daughters. I have a wonderful family that helps me with everything and I think this is the foundation of my success today. Alone I can go fast, but without a doubt it is thanks to my family that I will go far.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I have another dream of doing a master’s degree, but as I said above, A&E won my heart. I'm still undecided as to what to do next, I even have an appointment with a Careers consultant at City to help me clarify my ideas and get a sense of the best options to pursue as I’m excited by many options this course has opened up.
Advice for others
What would be your advice to anyone considering studying this course?
I have attended some of the University Open Days as a student ambassador and I remember hearing one of the lecturers say that when choosing Nursing it is equally important to choose the people who will accompany you on this journey.
The students and the people you live with, need to be aware that it is a complex journey, which includes anti-social hours, great commitment and the enormous certainty that it will not be easy but it will be worth it!
Having enormous emotional support is paramount, because some days are going to be difficult and some wonderful, and both require people who like us to share it with them. I believe that each journey is personal, and so the way each person perceives the event is different, that's why I don't believe in advice that works for everyone.
But what I can say, based on my experience, is that if your dream is to become a children's nurse, you will be able to experience and appreciate how simple gestures can change lives. You will also see and be part of the immeasurable rewards of making a significant impact on the patients and families lives.