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Deborah Cooper…A student nurse in a multi-disciplinary world!

Deborah Cooper
Deborah Cooper


STUDENT nurses are easily recognised on the wards. We tend to stand out a bit in our white uniforms and we have a certain ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look that most students wear for the first few shifts on any new ward area. Soon, however, we settle in to our ward or other clinical setting.

We find our feet and we start to learn, in leaps & bounds, all the intricacies of delivering high quality care to a range of patients.

Just as you feel you’ve come to know the ward, got the routine down and can remember the names of all the different members of staff you meet… it’s back to university for more lectures or moving on to another placement area.

I will admit, it can be a little tiring to know you’ve got to start fresh again soon but I take it as a challenge. In each area that I work I’m going to learn new things, meet new people and maybe I’ll even find somewhere I like working enough to think about applying for a job there in the future.

For me my development as a student nurse (STN) doesn’t just come from my fantastic lecturers or the hardworking mentors on the ward who juggle teaching students & managing the care of up to 12 patients. I’m a bit of a nosy person, I like to ask questions, try to understand different perspectives and am always eager to learn from whoever is willing to teach me.

Here is where I enter the wonderful world of the multidisciplinary team (MDT). So far in my training I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time learning from fantastic members of the MDTs in all the clinical environments I’ve worked in, these have included: physiotherapists; occupational therapists; dieticians; ward pharmacists; speech & language therapists; diagnostic radiographers; social workers; mental health nurses & doctors; consultants & their teams of doctors; and specialist nursing teams who supplement & support the ward nursing staff.

I’d never claim to know the intricacies of everyone’s roles, but having spent a few hours, or a few days, with each of these key players in the healthcare infrastructure I feel better equipped to support my patients with these MDT interactions. I understand more about the different skill sets of MDT members, can refer my patients to the appropriate healthcare professional to enhance their recovery. I see the importance of effective communication between MDT members and an appreciation for each other’s role within the team to give the patients the best possible outcome. I have a greater appreciation for the role a diverse MDT plays in delivering safe, effective & holistic care to the patients under my care.

I know that not all my STN colleagues have been as proactive in seeking out MDT experiences or, in some cases, as lucky as I have been in finding approachable & knowledgeable professionals willing to give a little of their time to talk with a student nurse. It can be difficult if the other professions have their own students who, quite rightly, need to spend time with and learn from their mentors. Sometimes all I have been offered is to observe an interaction between MDT members & my patient and then a quick debrief of the key points raised, an explanation of terms I don’t quite understand or the recommendation of suitable resources to supplement my learning.

The best MDT experiences I have had have included whole days spend shadowing fantastic staff who not only explained what they were doing in their clinics or assessments, but who also challenged me to think about the things I’d seen and actively reflect on how this knowledge would improve my nursing practice. For me this is great, spending even a few hours with a member of the wider MDT gives me a starting point for a greater depth of knowledge which is available and can help me enhance my learning as well as my future practice.

Thinking about my experiences working with a diverse MDT I can draw two conclusions-

  • For my fellow student nurses – make sure you take the time to understand what the MDT members do. It can be easy to rattle off requests to people to come and support your patients, but unless you have an understanding of how their input can be integrated into the holistic needs of your patient then you are not going to get the full benefit of their knowledge.
  • For the many dedicated and talented MDT members – the next time a student approaches you to spend a little time trying to understand your role, please try and accommodate them. I know it can be tricky at times, but we want to understand how our different roles can complement each other.

I love being a student nurse and am looking forward to the day I get my NMC pin number and my ‘blues’ to wear with pride, the nurse’s role is definitely for me. I also love that I’m a student nurse in a MDT world, it opens new doors and new resources to me and I think the teamwork between such varied and talented professionals allows us to all work at our best.

For now I’ve got one more year of my training to go ,and I’m gearing up to dive into a world of learning, growing & developing that will (hopefully) shape me into the type of nurse I want to be. I have no idea where my final year placements will be as yet but I know I’m going to continue working in the same way and pestering as many MDT members as I can.

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