Who says working from 9 am to 5 pm is only for corporate office jobs? Nurses can too. Catherine, a Filipino UK Nurse working in the Outpatient Department (OPD), shares her story about being an OPD Nurse.
OPD is an ambulatory service where patients aren't admitted to the hospital with an emphasis on seeing patients in the clinic working alongside the doctors, other nurses and Healthcare Assistants (HCAs). The role of nurses is varied and includes but is not limited to performing observations of patients' vital signs, venepuncture, assessment, reassuring patients and sometimes may be required to assist in simple outpatient surgery.
Read Catherine's story as she paints a picture of her day as an OPD, the role's benefits and challenges, and her advice to those who want to move to this department.
I work in the Main Outpatient Department in one of the NHS Trusts in the United Kingdom. Our ward comprises various specialisms like Colorectal, Urology, Neurology, and Haematology.
My daily task and routine will depend on the allocated speciality clinic for the day. For example, if we see colorectal patients during the day, I will also need to assist the doctor with simple procedures like Sigmoidoscopy apart from the routine assessment and monitoring. However, if the day calls for looking after Haematology patients, I usually just take observations of patients and help the doctor if he/she needs anything.
As OPD Nurse, our role is crucial in preparing patients before the procedure. For instance, during a colorectal clinic, I have to ensure that all the assessment checks are done and that the patient understands the procedure. We usually perform the initial assessment before patients can proceed to pre-assessment clinics and surgery.
I work full-time, and my shift starts from 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday. I usually come to work 30 minutes earlier to set up the clinic and prepare the items we will need depending on the speciality clinic for the day. Due to long target lists on some clinics, we also have unsocial hours- from 5 pm to 8 pm or during weekends. If we work beyond our regular contracted hours, it will be paid as a bank shift.
For those nurses who don't want to work 5 days a week, it may be sensible to rethink the option of working in the OPD. Some prefer to work long days to stretch their hours, meaning they will have more days off. But a 9 to 5 job is suitable for me as I struggle to work long hours, especially night shifts. It may be worth considering how the shift pattern will affect your personal and family life.
One of the biggest challenges I have encountered was being accustomed to working in the UK, as it was quite different from how I had been trained in the Philippines. I have to adapt to the department's system, policies and procedures. In addition, communication with some patients can be difficult as we cater to a diverse population. It was a steep learning curve for the first few months as I had to learn some processes in my area, such as finding the proper link workers so we could provide the best care to patients.
On the other hand, the benefit of being an OPD nurse is the diversity of specialisms to learn. Having a background and experience in different specialities gives me a good foundation should I want to progress as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) for the specialisms that I have mentioned above.
I have never worked in the wards here in the UK, but judging from the stories I hear from my friends who are ward nurses, I must say that the workload in OPD is much lighter than in the wards. However, I recognise that one can learn a lot in the ward and study days are almost endless, unlike in my area where I have to exert extra effort to have more training. Nevertheless, each area still offers knowledge and skills relevant to practice.
I highly encourage nurses to try OPD as they can learn different skills that they can take wherever they work. You can acquire not only technical skills but also soft skills that employers are looking for. Just be prepared to work more days with short hours. Ultimately, if you decide to move into the OPD, the key is to never stop learning and always take the initiative to develop yourself professionally.