Night Nurse: Putting the Super in Supernumerary

Faster than a speeding bullet when the crash bell rings!

More powerful than a locomotive dragging 3 bags of dirty linen!

Able to leap tall IV stands in a single bound (before it goes off at 3am and the patient complains)!

They’re… Super Numerary!

If you’re a nursing student you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m assuming med students feel the same, as would teaching students, or any course that involves students having to work a certain number of hours in order to gain practical skills and to become qualified. If I’m honest, I enjoy placement more than theory classes most of the time, and I’m not the only one who feels this way. It’s the whole studying-versus-student thing: on placement I’m learning how to be a nurse but in class I feel more like I’m learning how to be a student. However there’s a teensy problem I’ve noted that needs addressing.


As a supernumerary temporary member of staff on placement, my primary focus is on learning. Particularly seeing as I’m not even in my final year yet. Yet due to the whole “there’s a person here who isn’t a patient ergo they must be a member of staff” train of thought some management teams tend to have, student nurses are often considered as an extra member of the team to everyone’s detriment.

I get it, I really do. Nursing is pretty short-staffed, and we need all hands on deck. But if the placement is deciding not to have a qualified member of staff on the team because there’s a student there, then there’s a problem. I’m not IV competent and won’t be until I qualify, and intravenous infusions are used often in most if not all nursing settings. If the ward is one staff member short and there’s something wrong with the IV pump (or even if there’s nothing wrong, it’s just finished and beeping and it’s woken the baby and it’s the middle of the night and the parents are mad and yelling and oh God I’m having flashbacks to my last night shift) I can’t do anything about it. I got told off once because a parent yelled at me for being useless so in a panic I pressed the silence button so that both the alarm and the family would be quiet and leave me alone.

Another thing is medication (you know, that thing that people expect nurses to give them?). Many fully qualified nurses can’t give medication alone, let alone little baby nurse me who needs to be monitored in case I kill someone make a mistake. If a place is purposefully short-staffed under the misguided assumption that I’m useful, then prepare to be disappointed by how slow everything’s gonna be.

That isn’t to say that student nurses are useless or that we should use the supernumerary title as an excuse to work the bare minimum. We absolutely should do things like help with personal hygiene of the patient, moving and handling within safe limits, cleaning and infection control and getting the patient their food or drinks. It’s to help the patient (which is the job we signed up for) and it helps the staff work smoothly and effectively. But we need to not only know our limits but also say “I have no clue how to do that”. I have no qualms with saying “I’m unfamiliar with this. Tell me what to do. I’m as thick as a brick. Use flashcards.” We get told to do this in university prior to placement, but it really hits home when you’re actually on placement and suddenly is saddled with 3 patients, 2 admissions and a partridge in a pear tree, and it can honestly make you feel so inadequate. Please, my fellow baby nurses, remember this: you are not inadequate if you are given more work than you have been trained to handle so far. It’s good to challenge yourself and definitely put yourself forward for learning something new, but don’t overwork yourself because of impractical expectations. Let them know you’re super supernumerary and you need support.

And if that thought doesn’t help you, then consider this: you’re technically only getting paid £3 per hour for the work you’re doing. Probably shouldn’t overwork yourself for the price of a Tesco Meal Deal.

2 thoughts on “Night Nurse: Putting the Super in Supernumerary

  1. Crystal L. says:

    Hi! I’ve just read some of your posts and really enjoyed them. Your Night Nurse posts are great. I’m starting nursing school this September here in Canada, so hopefully I’ll be able to write about my experiences as well. I was curious–are you in a 4-year nursing program?


    • geekypudding says:

      Hi! I’m glad you like my blog! I’m actually doing a 2 year nursing course in the UK, ahaha! To cut a long story short, I have a degree so I get to do a shortened course… I’ll probably write about it at some point 😀 and you should definitely start a blog, it’s so much fun!


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