Blog post

How my sexual health placement helped me become a better children’s nurse

By Jenna Clarkson - 9 May 2022

Hello! My name is Jenna and I’m a third-year student children's nurse at the University of Derby and I’m just a few months away from qualifying as a registered nurse. And, for just over a year now, I have been expressing my interest in sexual health to my course tutors.

Inspired by my own sex education

I have always had an interest in sexual health, even in secondary school, and I believe the reason is that the sex education I received was not up to standard. It was a quick 45-minute lesson from someone who didn’t have a positive thing to say regarding sexual health, unfortunately. The World Health Organization says that sexual health should be approached in a positive and respectful manner and it’s a shame I didn’t experience this at school. But this is my inspiration and motivation to succeeding in sexual health.

During sexual health focused lectures, I would get involved in discussions and was always interested in the demographics, to understand why there are inequalities across the country. I love to advocate for sexual health education and promotion because it is an integral part of an individual's health and wellbeing. And, in my second year, I chose to do an assignment on chlamydia. So, I did my research for chlamydia, and submitted my assignment and waited three weeks for my grade. To my surprise, I had scored 90%, which remains my highest academic grade. From here on in, I was persistent in asking my tutors for a sexual health placement and made sure they knew that is what I wanted.

A nervous wait for placement allocation

A year later, one Friday evening, I was sat waiting to find out my placement allocation. I really wasn’t sure where I would be sent and was quite nervous. I refreshed the page and up came the Sexual Health Clinic at the local Florence Nightingale Community Hospital. I was delighted to say the least!

I had planned to contact the Sexual Health team the following week but, to my surprise, the Sister emailed me the very next day welcoming me to the team and asking me if I would like to come for a tour before I started. It was so lovely to receive this email and I already felt valued despite not being there yet. It’s always so encouraging to hear that your placement area are excited about your upcoming presence!

Feeling capable and confident

As part of my studies, I’ve gone on three clinical placements each academic year. Thanks to my wide variety of clinical placements and support from my tutors, I felt capable and confident heading into the clinic. There were so many learning opportunities made available to me and I very quickly settled into the team.

There is no discrimination in sexual health, I saw patients aged 13 all the way up to their seventies, patients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and patients who identified as LGBTQ+. It was lovely to see that everyone was treated with the same respect and that patients had their individual needs met.

I got involved in patient care straight away and, during my first week, I administered many vaccinations, which is something I had not yet been exposed too. I observed many contraception and STI symptom appointments, and I quickly learned about which medications would be most appropriate for the patient depending on what they presented with.

The privilege of working with patients

Getting to know the patients in such detail was a great privilege. I loved talking to them and putting them at ease. When they laughed, I laughed and, when they felt upset, I passed them the tissues and held their hands until they felt OK again if that’s what they needed me to do.

I wanted to make their appointment as comfortable as possible for them. It’s the small details that mean the most. There is the famous saying: “People may not remember your name, but they will remember how you made them feel.” And I definitely applied this to every consultation I sat in. This allowed the patients to be honest with us and allowed us to provide them with the best-quality care they rightly deserve.

I’m so grateful to the patients for allowing me sit in on their appointments which can be a sensitive time for anyone. I was even able to lead the consultations on some occasions. One of my favourite procedures they perform is contraceptive implant fits and removals, I find it all so fascinating and I loved to set up for an Aseptic Non-Touch Technique procedure.

Engaging with school students

I also had the chance to attend a local secondary school to do some sexual health promotion to a group of students. Here, we educated them on how to care for their sexual health and taught them the importance of safety and consent.

It was really encouraging to see the students engage with the session and to see how sex education has evolved since I received it. I feel like I have definitely had the time to put things right through reflecting upon my own experiences.

A fantastic placement experience

My entire five weeks at the clinic were a dream come true and I am so incredibly lucky and thankful to have a placement experience as fantastic as I did. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work alongside. On my last shift, when my assessor told me I had finished, I cried straight away and was so upset that I had to leave.

When the time comes, I will definitely be applying for a Band 5 job there, I want to take my career as a Sexual Health Nurse all the way, with the aspiration of becoming an Advanced Clinical Practitioner within this specialty with the aims of working with adolescents who have identified sexual health needs.

About the author

Children's Nursing student - Jenna Clarkson.

Jenna Clarkson

I am a final year Children’s Nursing student, part of Derby’s first-ever Children’s Nursing cohort. I have been fortunate to experience a wide variety of placements where I have developed my knowledge and clinical skills. Without a doubt, Sexual Health remains a firm favourite placement of mine. I will forever treasure my time there as it really was a dream come true!