Nursing one year on – A reflection

Please refer to my disclaimer before reading any of my Nurse Boo categorised posts

It’s one year today that I walked into university for the first time as a mature student and became a student nurse.

“nursing is not just a job, it’s a profession”

It’s interesting that this is one of the first messages you receive as a student nurse, because Nursing really does become your life. It’s all consuming, it changes you and your perceptions of yourself and others. They are right – it’s not just a job, nor is it just a ‘profession’ it’s a way of life. It’s either for you or your worst nightmare. I agree when I hear people say it’s a ‘calling’ because most people hate hospitals, hate germs and sickness, and somehow despite all the poo and the disgusting things and the doing of things you would never have dreamed of as normality, you still want to go back, you still want to be a nurse, and nursing remains your life. Even if I quit it all now I know it would still be with me – ‘the nurse way of life’ – you see, it becomes engrained. The lessons I’ve learnt, the things that I’ve seen that I can’t unsee, they would stay with me with or without this profession and that’s something I’m so grateful for in this experience.

But I won’t be quitting – I’ve found joy, confidence, maturity and patience in nursing. I truly believe that, without wanting to use the cliché that ‘I have found myself’ –  I have in fact found the me I want to be. The knowledge I have gained academically and practically is vast but perhaps the important lessons I have learnt about myself and about other people overpower the knowledge. I guess you can say that you can learn every drug in the BNF off by heart, excel in all your assignments and be an anatomy whizz… But without courage, patience and compassion and an understanding of your patients – what they need, how they feel, where they have come from, what they value, how they see the world and how the world sees them, none of that matters.

In doing a nursing degree they fill your mind with information and knowledge and they say as a nurse you never stop learning, because research keeps happening, technology keeps developing and statistics keep adjusting. Your mind is stretched, but this can only be a good thing, as I consider having a big wide and open mind is the only thing that carries you through nursing. The only thing that allows you to truly understand. You will meet people from all walks of life, both in patients and in colleagues. They won’t think or look or feel like you, and you will have to have the open mind to understand that in order to help them and put them at ease with you. There is no space for judgement in nursing. These people become your day, they become your friends and your allies and you then become a part of them.

There are the consultants that have undermined and belittled me, the nurses that have cried in the staff room and shared their vulnerability and stories with me. The HCA’s that have taught me to change a lifeless and immobile fragile adults nappy, clean them up and change their bed whilst they are still lying there unable to move. The ward sisters who have shown me how you can’t be soft and all smiles to reach the top. The patients that have showed me how much difference the small things can make, who have gripped my hand and stared into my eyes and shown me pure gratitude in their eyes. The ward clerk who has shown me she probably knows more about the patients than the nurses and doctors do put together, and the tea lady who has allowed me to know where her secret stash of plastic spoons and straws are and knows I will keep it to myself and only dip into them when I really need them for my patients. The anaesthetic nurse who become my friend – who’s smile put me at ease when my heart was beating with nerves when I first stepped into a theatre. The senior nurse who hugged me and told me I did the right thing 5 minutes after she told me off for dismissing her demands to instead stay with my patient who needed me. The radiologist who helped me wheel a patients bed back to the ward when the porter failed to show up. The IT guy with a great sense of humour who sat with me setting up my nhs email. The patient who’s legs were too swollen to put compression socks on who also opened his bowels on the chair whilst awaiting going down to theatre. The cleaner who was always smiling. The nurse who bought me a ring as she said the stone matched my eyes, just because she knew I had had a bad week outside of nursing.

The list could go on and on.

These people have all taught me the valuable lessons I need to add to my repertoire. They have all taught me how to be a good nurse in giving the practical knowledge, demonstration and opportunity to practice. But they have also taught me how to find my own way as a nurse, and given me something to take or leave in terms of being so my own way. They have all become a part of my day and I have become a part of them.  

There’s the obvious things you need to get through being a student nurse – time management, organisation, punctuality, knowledge, confidence, courage, adaptability. You also have to learn to take some things from some people and leave the rest. Use guidance from other people to find your own way. Be sure about what you are undertaking, own what you are doing, throw yourself into every opportunity to learn. Be memorable, use your strengths, access your kindness, utilise your patience and keep it when it is being tested. Stand your ground, stand up for what is right. Speak your voice and make sure it’s heard. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something or you don’t understand. Put yourself in other people’s shoes, always turn up on time for your shift and your lectures. Plan and be prepared. Know your patient and get to know their history. Be the nurse you would like to have care for you, remember the battle that your patient is fighting and think about their story. Always tell people your name and what you are going to do for them. Leave worries at the door when you enter AND exit the hospital. Drink water every time you get a chance and pay through the nose for the best shoes your money can buy, your feet will thank you for it.

Most importantly be you, give but take, know your place but aim higher, don’t be afraid of vulnerability but be proud to show your strength. Access realms of your heart that you maybe didn’t know existed. Be the nurse you want to be and find your own way. Store memories from those who have become a part of your day and you too will become a part of them.


Image credit – Pexels


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