3 Nursing Staff You Didn’t Know Existed But Wish You Did

Aug 11, 2021

Written by Annabelle Chan

Annabelle Chan is a first year medical student who, prior to studying medicine, worked as a registered nurse. She is passionate about building healthier and more effective nurse-doctor relationships.

A medical student and former nurse gives you insider tips on how to connect with key nursing staff who will make your job a whole lot easier.

Starting internship is already a steep enough learning curve as it is, and not knowing who or how to ask for help when you need it will only make the climb harder. 

I remember my first year of nursing, which coincided with my group of friends' first year of internship. We spent most of our nights discussing all the weird and wonderful encounters of our days. Within a few months the common theme of not understanding the various nursing ranks and positions seemed to emerge. It became pretty apparent to me that junior doctors starting in the hospital really had no idea about the kind of help that was available to them via their nursing colleagues. I was amazed, because while they were fumbling their ways through skills they hadn't done since first year and stressing out about what to do with their patients, I was picking up the phone and calling the experts for help instead. If only they knew about these nursing staff they could have made their first few months a whole lot easier. 

So do yourself a favour and skip those few months of being lost and confused and learn to lean on these three key nursing colleagues who will make your intern year a whole lot easier.

1. Clinical Nurse Educators (CNE)

Is your senior registrar too busy to supervise you with a clinical skill? No idea how to insert that NG tube because you haven't done it since first year of med school? Fear not and look no further than your clinical nurse educators. They are ready to equip you with all sorts of skills you didn't even know you were capable of and show you how it's done (the right way). 

A CNE's role is to provide support and education to all staff both junior and senior. They are often available in each specialty department and in metropolitan hospitals to provide 24/7 support. They are truly the kings and queens of all things clinical skill based, and are always up to date with the current policies. They have also most likely been in the nursing field longer than you dare ask. This makes them an invaluable resource of knowledge, clinical experience and some serious kick ass nurse intuition. 

I can't recommend enough that you pick up the phone and give them a call the next time you find yourself lost on how to access that central line or put in that urinary catheter. You won't be the first doctor to call and certainly wont be the last. They are here to help you. 

2. Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)

This title isn't handed out easily, it takes years of experience, post graduate study and a lot of hard work to be given the privilege of being called a CNS. 

Not sure how things are done in a department? Haven't seen a sick paediatric patient in ED before and want someone to help you assess them? Or maybe you're unsure of what day your surgeon wants their patient’s stitches out (and you're too scared to ask)? Just ask your CNS for answers to all of the above. They are great people to turn to for guidance when you're feeling overwhelmed or wanting to learn the lay of the land on your newest rotation. 

You'll often find CNS's scattered throughout each department and will certainly be thankful for their presence on your ED and ward night terms. They are approachable, knowledgeable and know more about that department than anyone else you will meet. It would be remiss of you not to listen to what they have to say.

3. Wound consultants (CNC)

Please know not all hospitals will have one, but if you work in a metropolitan hospital you need to find the pager number of this nurse and etch it into your mind for the remainder of your hospital years. 

Unbeknown to most doctors is that chronic wounds are a specialty in themselves and require years of experience to really know what you're actually doing with them. 

Nurse wound consults (often called Clinical Nurse Consultants - with a subspecialty e.g wounds) are truly an endless fountain of knowledge on all things wound related. They will save you wasting both yours and your patient’s time trying to fumble your way through dressing regimes for those chronic wounds, that let’s face it you have no idea how to manage. So let's just leave it to the experts. 

They are often overworked and under-resourced, so make sure you liaise with your ward nurses before giving them a call to make sure that your referral is both appropriate and organised with all the information they need to help you. 

Knowing your way around 'the system' can save you precious time that in your first year of internship is more precious than gold. There are so many other nurses out there that are ready to lend you a hand, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. All nurses are valuable points of knowledge and each and every one of them has something to add to help you climb that learning curve.


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