Research nursing….what actually goes on

So….if I was to ask you a couple of questions to start with….

How many research nurses and other research staff are working in your trust?

How many clinical trials are running in your trust?

How many patients have been recruited on to clinical trials in the last year in your trust?

Could you answer me? To be honest I didn’t have a clue before my placement with the Research and Development team in my trust. Oh, I see some of you starting to yawn, but this is not taught research this is actual research that shapes our practice, guidelines and the future of healthcare.

So, the answer to my original question… my trust we have around 50 research staff, we have about 200 clinical trials, and we recruited over 5000 patients last year!

I find those figures quite astonishing.

I have gained a lot from this placement and now hopefully understand research a bit more in depth. Although I haven’t had much opportunity to use my clinical skills, I have been able to develop other key skills and don’t forget the one thing I bang on about all the time…..every opportunity is a learning opportunity so ask questions.

To see research first hand and the process right from the initial visit right through to patient visits has helped me to start to make sense of those ever-confusing research papers. Terms like double blind interventional study now actually have a real meaning, and I’m starting to read research papers with more insight, more meaning and more interest, after all these studies may change my practice and patient outcomes in the future. Some of these studies will also be financially beneficial for the NHS, save us time and more importantly change lives, so that’s got to be good right?

One thing that has really stood out through this placement is how open and enthusiastic patients are to consider and take part in trials. From a patient possibly trying out a new plaster cast material, to taking an active ingredient/placebo medication or families deciding for their loved ones in ICU. Patients don’t just think of themselves they think of everyone around them, other carriers of the disease as well as supporting the NHS.

The nurses get to build professional relationships with their patients over an extended period of time and spend quality time with them. They get to work across the multidisciplinary team gaining wider knowledge of different specialties, procedures and conditions/diseases. As with nursing in general, every day is a learning day and you are continually gaining more and more knowledge.

So, some key learning points from this experience….


• Drives evidence-based practice

• Offers patients other options

• Delivers patient centered care

What a student nurse/nurse gets out of taking part in research…..

• Quality face to face time with patients

• Variability and variety on a day to day basis

• Playing a part in developing better healthcare

My challenge to you…..if you are a student or in fact a nurse, find out what research happens in your trust and could you get involved? Ask if you can go and find out what research is happening. Finally, don’t be put off by those complicated research papers, research is interesting and is the future of healthcare.

Thank you to the Research Nurse I borrowed the picture off


Male Student Nurse

Here’s a poem I’ve written about being a male student nurse. It’s a bit of fun trying to find my creative side. I hope you enjoy.

I’m a male student nurse

Is it really that diverse

I’m the same as a female nurse

Just with out the pretty purse

I heard the patients say

Just the other day

Surely he wants to be a doctor

And fly a helicopter

No stop it leave those stereotypes behind

Surely we’re not that blind

The world is now a different place

Where we can embrace

A nurse for who they are

Even if they are a bit bizarre

Just 10% of nurses are male

Excuse me while I just inhale

Please let’s take stock

And take off this lock

Encourage a man

Away from his van

Encourage a boy

To play with a different toy

Even with such poor press

We can change this, I guess

What a career to enjoy

And to aspire to as a boy

A career with amazing opportunity

It’s time to show some unity

I can’t wait to be a nurse

Let’s not make this worse

Stereotypes have no place in our society

Let’s give everyone some variety

A boy, a girl a lady or a man

All you need to do is believe you can

So let’s show off this profession in a positive light

Not hide it away in the dark of the night

I for one will sing out loud

And show everyone I’m proud

To be a male student nurse.

Social media…newbies, advice and positivity

Students and social media

As a mature student (well in age, but not so much in heart) I have been around since the start of the social media revolution especially facebook and twitter. It’s funny to think that to get onto facebook when it first came out you had to go on a computer and trying to put a picture on took what felt like a lifetime. Now we have social media following us round like a bad smell, we have access to it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…..we can find out what our friends, family or our favourite celebrity at the touch of a button. Just the other day I was stood at the train station the other day I looked around and there were probably 95% of people on their phones.

Your probably thinking why is he writing a blog about social media…..well here goes. I’m going to start with the advice bits and then move on to how social media can be amazing!

Watch what you post….think about what you are posting, would you want your boss to see, read or hear about what you have put on social media. Don’t get me wrong you should have your own views and be able to conduct your life as you want but you never know who is friends with your friend and how it might affect your career…..just be careful. Recently I went to an RCN conference and we had an amazing presentation from the legal team. They highlighted the increase of NMC cases against nurses who had posted things on Facebook that were deemed to put the profession or their employer into disrepute.

Please make sure you don’t use any of the patients personal details, name etc…and also personally I would advise not to use hospital names and ward names, people are clever and can work these things out!

Look at your security settings….make sure your security settings are at the highest level possible. Think about who you add on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is a whole different kettle of fish and I will go into next.

So Twitter, I guess it’s like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Personally I love it, I find so much information that is relevant to me and my chosen career path. But with Twitter you need to remember that it is an open network unless you protect your tweets and make your account private. So again please try and avoid any choice language, or throwing in some extreme views….just be careful.

I look at twitter as a professional network that is intertwined with connections, information sharing and a wide range of learning opportunities. You can follow pretty much who you want to, personally I use my @malestudentnurse account to follow anything and anyone health related. I’ve made a wealth of connections already with people sharing some really interesting research/information with me through both tags and personal messages.

When using Twitter there are # tags used all the time, you can use these to search for related topics such as #studentnurse or you can use a # tag in your own post. These can then be searched by other people and hopefully liked ❤️ (that’s what the heart is for). You can also retweet tweets that you have read and found interesting and want to share, either with your own tweet attached or as you found it. You can tag people into posts either in the tweet using @ followed by their twitter name or tag them into a picture (this way you can add up to 9 people) Lastly you can comment on tweets, this can be a great way of starting a discussion but remember be professional at all times.

There are some amazing twitter discussions that happen on a regular basis by @WeNurses they have lots of other branches to this as well for paediatric, mental health, learning disability, midwives etc. You can use these just to watch and gain information or insight….or get involved. They are very thought provoking and can be used to use your newly learnt knowledge or understand the other peoples side of topics.

The other day I was lucky enough to present to my local trusts board of directors, and it really struck me how powerful twitter can be. After my presentation the CEO of my trust said that I was very active on twitter and post some really interesting blogs and information, what you have to bear in mind here……I had never met him until that moment.

So a few things to remember going forward…..

Stay professional…you never know who is reading your posts

Don’t share any personal information about patients or hospitals

Network…build a strong network depending on your interests

#hashtag…use them to search and tag tweets in

Get involved…get involved in twitter discussions you might learn a thing or two

Finally…. Unfortunately I constantly read, negativity about the profession on facebook and twitter and some of this I feel is very close to mark of demeaning the profession. Let’s try and put some positivity out there about nursing and the healthcare sector, I’m sure we all have some positive stories or experiences to share, I challenge you all to share some positivity around healthcare and the great work we do.

Anxieties of a new placement…why am I like this?

As a student nurse I am very fortunate to be given the opportunity of many varied placements giving me the opportunity to explore a wealth of learning opportunities. Personally I have been so lucky with all my placements and had some fantastic mentors along the way which makes starting a new placement slightly easier. However, the dread of starting a new placement gets me every time, it’s just like starting a new job but slightly worse (in my view). All the theory and practical skills you have learnt seems to leave you over night and you start doubting your own ability.

Right from the initial phone call to the ward I get butterflies in my stomach, I’m not even a nervous person, so I really don’t understand where this comes from. I want to sound confident on the phone, but not too confident, so hopefully they don’t think I’m a cocky student nurse who thinks he knows it all. So I then book a visit, the butterflies now intensify…….I get to the ward and walk away back down the corridor to recompose myself. Seriously what is wrong with me….I’m never like this and this happens every time. I then go onto the ward meet the ward manger/my mentor and I settle down into my normal self….but I’m still thinking don’t come across as that arrogant student nurse!

The weeks and days pass and the excitement of starting a placement builds, I try and read up on areas surrounding my placement and iron my uniform ready for my first day. If we take a flash back to my first ever placement, I was like a quivering wreck, I felt I’d forgotten everything that I had learnt, my heart was pounding, my hands shaking…again what is wrong with me, I never feel like this. Even going into my third year and thinking about placements, I get nervous, I get the butterflies….

Then the other day it hit me. I feel like this because I treat every placement as a job interview, an opportunity to develop my skills, meet new people and more importantly get closer to becoming a great nurse. Who knows, the nurses and health care assistants I work with could be my colleagues, my boss or in fact I could one day be their boss.

This is the time of year that a large majority of student nurses start their journey and my advice around placements and combatting nerves would be as follows.


What’s the time old saying, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail (or something like that). Make sure you ring your placement in advance, research your placement, think about who from the multidisciplinary team you could spend time with and choose some learning outcomes you want to achieve.

Notebook and pen

Make sure you have a notebook and pen at hand so you can jot down anything you don’t understand or to make sense of those millions of acronyms. I personally have two different colour ones, one I use for acronyms, questions and other information, while I use the other one for understanding medication (still need to learn a lot there).

Get involved

Get involved in everything you can. Ask to do things, if they say no ask again at a different time (but don’t go over the top and become annoying). Use your initiative, find jobs to do, talk to patients and relatives, ask for jobs, show you want to learn.

Personal care

I bang on about this all the time when I meet new students. This is so important and if a nurse that you work with is not doing it you should definitely ask why. The reason I say its so important, is that sometimes it’s the only chance that you get to spend some real time with some of your patients. It’s a great opportunity to talk to them, engage in questions, see how they really are.

For everyone starting out on their nursing journey good luck and I hope these hints and tips help, for the other students and perhaps nurses, this might be a good chance to reflect on your own practice and make a change.

A student, but more importantly a husband and a dad

I’ve written before about my concerns prior to starting my nursing degree with my children and of course my wife and whether it was financially viable. With the added pressures of childcare, school runs, clubs and my wife working shift work, it concerned me if I could be a student, but more importantly a dad and a husband.

I’ve been very fortunate and have been around a lot while my children have been growing up, being there for most events, being able to do the school runs and being around for bed time stories. However, starting this degree things started to change without me even noticing…..studying was taking up more time than I expected, shift work was meaning I missed school runs and bed times and date nights became a thing of the past. I admit some of this was my own doing and reflecting back on this, I certainly now try to do things differently.

Being a mature student I have different priorities to the younger students, less nights out, different studying times and learning to juggle family life. It’s been so important to plan each and every part of my life, from the outside looking in people have said I don’t know how you and your wife do it….to be honest neither do we, we just get on with it. Time management is a really important to us and trying to utilise the time I have on my own to study, such as the school day or sat in the car after dropping off the kids at a club.

I’m quite a selfish person sometimes and coming from a background of playing an individual sport, I’m also very driven to reach my goals and these are some of my flaws I’m trying to work on. Finally I’m starting to realise that I need to prioritise, with each and every second, of every single day is precious to me and my family. After my wife was diagnosed with cancer back in 2011 my whole view on life changed, and although I’m still learning to be less stressed and grumpy, (this still might take a while….sorry kids) I am getting there and this degree is surprisingly helping.

If you’re a mature student, or in fact a student of any age here is my advice….firstly plan everything, no matter how big or small. This has helped me in my personal life and out on practice, normally I do this by making lists, splitting them into importance categories. Secondly, be honest with yourself and your family…what I mean by this is let them know if you are struggling or you have a deadline due, they will understand. Thirdly and most importantly, remember who you are…I’m a husband and a dad, I was before becoming a student nurse and I will be after and no matter how important this degree is to me, my family must always come first.

At the end of the day I owe all my success and opportunities to my family…without them I wouldn’t have ever thought I could achieve what I have so far. They give me the drive to succeed and be the best I can be. I just want to make them all proud!

Monetary incentives for males into nursing…is there other options

I was involved in a conversation on twitter which evolved around an article in the Telegraph about a university offering a £3000 sweetener to entice males to train as nurses. As you can imagine this opened a can of worms and some valid points were discussed from each side of the viewpoint. The university involved discusses the fact there are only around 10% of students that are men and there is an unequal gender representation in the profession. So this leads me on to the conversation…

Financial incentives to join a profession that are crying out for more people to train to be nurses could be a great way forward especially with the loss of the bursary. However, targeting a specific gender group, could this be considered discriminatory? Some people considered it appalling, inappropriate or a waste of time, it may be some of these things but at least someone is trying to do something about it. With the loss of the bursary this may not have been the best time and supporting everyone might be considered a better option.

Other professions actively try and bridge the gender divide but how do they go about this? With the likes of Engineering they have specific events and ambassadors to try and encourage more females in to engineering or STEM subjects. They also have offered financial incentives for getting females into engineering. Teaching have also found a divide in the different genders teaching specific subjects, however I suppose wherever we look we will find these differences.

So where do we go in nursing?……. Stereotypes are ever prevalent in today’s society and they are embedded early on in our impressionable lives, for example firemen, builders and plumbers are men where as hairdressers, receptionist and nurses are women. In today’s society with equal opportunities for all, no matter of race, sexuality or gender, is there something we can do to challenge these stereotypes?

Male nurses quite often get branded with the name murse, meaning male nurse or asked the question are you training to be a doctor? The fact of the matter is…. I am no different being a male nurse than a female being a nurse. Everyone who trains in this profession will be able to bring different skills and personality attributes to the profession, some might be born leaders while others might taken a more unassuming role. Male nurses are quite often expected to work in A&E to deal with the more difficult characters, however in reality a female nurse can be far more authoritarian. Whereas some of the most compassionate, kind and thoughtful nurses I have come across actually happen to be men.

A huge area I would like to see addressed is how we break these stereotypes in early education, while also using males role models to advocate for nursing encouraging more of us into the profession. I’m sure there are people sat at work, bored out of their mind who would have been fantastic nurses, but this was never given a second thought. With a shift in the way the nursing degree is funded and the uncertainty of where the NHS is going surely this is the time to act.

Let’s just take a moment to think about the other public sector services like the fire brigade, the police and the ambulance service…they are fantastic in community and schools engagement whereas the NHS as a whole isn’t. After all what little boy growing up didn’t want to be a police man of a fireman? Forget the negativity around the profession for a moment, we will need nurses whatever happens, who will probably look after all us, surely it is important to try a targeted approach to this. Let’s start with males and breaking these stereotypes, lets get boys aspiring to be nurses understanding the core values and skills in the nursing profession.

We all are involved in multidisciplinary working in healthcare so maybe it’s time for a bit of multidisciplinary working between universities, hospitals and the education system. As student nurses could there be something written into our degrees for some community/schools engagement? Here I’m not just focussing on males, I’m looking at the bigger picture of how we get all genders into nursing. We can break the stereotypes around nursing using the right tools no matter whether it’s a male or female talking about the profession. We need to consider the wider cultural and attitude changes, blow away the myths and misconceptions of nursing and start to drive some positivity around the profession.

Oh and please stop using a picture of Charlie Fairhead as the image of males nurses…..there are far more of us!!!!!

Emotions as a student nurse….it’s a rollercoaster

This week has been a challenging week, I am out on placement which is a great experience but I have seen and heard some things that have challenged me emotionally and mentally. It’s brought back some memories of situations that I have been in myself, but now I’m on the other side looking in.

Before I became a student nurse, my beautiful wife and I had the devastating news that she had cancer. I don’t know if I can put the feeling into words, but I will try……basically it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus (I’m guessing of course), your in a complete daze, nothing makes sense, you have so many questions, you can’t talk, your stomach is in knots, you cry uncontrollably, you shake…I think you get the picture, its dreadful.

This week I was present when a patient was given the news that he had cancer, I could literally feel his emotions running through my body. The look on his face painted a thousand pictures, I just wanted to give him a hug and tell everything would be ok, my emotions were running wild inside me. But the reality is, I don’t even really know this patient, but I had a connection with him through my own experiences. That evening my wife was out and I started reflecting on my day and my time so far as a student nurse. Feeling the pain and the emotions of that patient, bought home to me that I was in the right place, I was doing the right degree and I really wanted to be a nurse.

It also got me thinking about another experience when I watched my first patient die….(I never know what word to use). Going back to one of my previous blogs about CPR and my first experience of a patient dying. A man in cardiac arrest came into resus, I had never met him, I knew nothing about him, but I was there with him at his most vulnerable. Through that moment when the doctors said the time of death, it was an emotionally challenging moment. I felt a tear run down my face, a feeling of hurt in my body, thinking about a family who may have lost a grandad, a dad, a brother, an uncle etc., it was challenging.

This week I have tweeted ‘There is no shame in shedding a tear when a patients dies is not a sign of weakness it’s a sign you care’. I really feel this is so important, the thought of not feeling any emotion towards a patient, their journey, good or bad news, or the patient passing away would mean I’m not in the right profession. After reflecting on my experiences I realised that as a healthcare professional I will come across things that will affect me and probably when I least expect it. I need to use these experiences to develop myself as nurse, to take time to reflect on my day and let some emotion out.

I have learnt a lot about myself this week and have had a rollercoaster of emotion, something that I didn’t really expect. Coming off the back of three long days, it really hit me today and I was a bit grumpy (sorry to my wife and kids). But after a run and and writing this blog I feel much better. Finally I am going to leave you with a couple of my tweets, I really hope they resonate with you, or they are thought provoking. 

To look after people at their most vulnerable is a privilege/honour it’s also an emotional rollercoaster #studentnurse #malesintonursing

Remember to look after yourself before you can look after someone else. #physicalhealth #mentalhealth #studentnurse #nurse #malesintonursing