I have decided to write this blog post now, 7 months into being a qualified mental health nurse, because I needed time for the dust to settle. I have been promising my ward manager Alice for months that I would write it (sorry!) and to be honest, I have been completely putting it off, mostly due to procrastination (sorry again!) but also because my conception of the roles and responsibilities of a qualified nurse have altered since first qualifying. I must admit, I am one of the lucky ones from my cohort who definitely felt ready to qualify. In fact, without bragging too much, I didn’t feel nervous at all. I was ready to remove the hypothetical training wheels and take on the responsibilities of being a qualified member of the team. I so wanted to get involved with all the tasks that, as students we are protected from getting involved in, I wanted to be able to assist my fellow colleagues who I absolutely idolised. Part of this was definitely due to being privileged enough to have my final sign-off placement as a student on Coral Ward at Langley Green Hospital (LGH), but more about that later.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~ Gandhi
When I began my journey as a student nurse, I wasn’t certain that it was the career path for me, I don’t think anyone is to be honest, all I knew is that it was something that was deeply personal to me. I have always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to have a career that helped others. I transitioned straight from college to university and had never worked in health care before. The first few months of uni were amazing, making new friends, partying, joining the uni swim team and lectures of course… but then came placement and as a student who had only ever had weekend and holiday jobs, you can imagine the shock of working full time placement hours, plus keeping the weekend job for money. Its fair to say my social life always took a hit during placement periods. However, as time went by, it got easier and by third year I was managing my work life and social life pretty well, another skill to add to the set.
I was definitely a different person when I started university, much to my colleagues’ disbelief, I used to be painfully shy and anxious prior to uni and even in my first year; I would even struggle to make phone calls. However, I quickly learned that when on placement certain things were expected of me and I had a responsibility to complete tasks for my colleagues and patients and as much as I desperately wanted to avoid these tasks, I was not about to let them down. I have always had to work hard academically, and essays and exams have never come naturally to me. I remember spending many days and nights at uni struggling to write essays. I was constantly questioning “how does this reflect my skills as a nurse?” and thinking that I should give up now as I was never going to qualify. But through all of that, all I needed was that one good day at placement and I would instantly be reminded of why I was putting in all the hard work and that it would all be worth it eventually. I’m definitely the kind of person who learns better on the job than in a classroom.
“If you were born with the weakness to fall you were born with the strength to rise” ~ Rupi Kaur
It’s hard to believe that until my final year of university I had never actually stepped foot in Langley Green Hospital. The first thing that struck me when I entered LGH was the the fact that it did not look or feel like a hospital, this may sound silly but I felt calm and relaxed and people were actually smiling at me! I felt at ease which for a student nurse in her final year is a rare feeling. I was not actually there for a placement but for a bank support worker role with the CRHTT (crisis resolution and home treatment team). A role which I undertook pretty much every weekend of my final year and I loved to bits. The team are amazing and all took me under their wing, each teaching me their own ways and quirks and imparting their experience and wisdom onto me which was greatly appreciated. What I love most about this team is how they work together, I never felt as though I was alone in any decision and always felt supported. Their compassion towards their patients is inspiring and they go above and beyond in ways you could not imagine. My confidence as a heath care professional grew tremendously during this year and I definitely owe a lot of this to LGH CRHTT.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” ~ Phil Jackson
Working with CRHTT definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed and half way through my final year I began my first placement on Coral Ward, LGH. I remember being so nervous as I had never worked on an adult acute ward before and instantly felt like I was in my first year again. I remember driving in on my first day I was stuck in traffic and literally got to the ward in the nick of time (every students nightmare) where I was greeted at the door by Tracey our Ward Admin, she showed me around and introduced me to everyone and instantly I began to relax. It didn’t take long until I felt like a member of the team, a feeling that unfortunately I didn’t get to experience on every placement during my training. I didn’t feel like I was ‘just the student’ and was given responsibility whilst always being supported, if ever there was a learning opportunity the team always thought of me and made sure I was there to experience it. I learnt so much from every single member of the team and became infected by the Coral Ward compassion that seemed to be instilled in everyone. After only being there a couple of weeks, I had already requested to my university that I would be allocated Coral Ward as my sign off placement and was thrilled when this was granted.
I will forever feel so grateful and lucky to have had my sign off placement on Coral Ward, being surrounded by such a supportive team not just on the ward but throughout the whole hospital. LGH set up weekly forums for all the student nurses to attend and always provided us with opportunities to learn and reflect on practise and encouraged us to make our changes and suggestions which is just one example of LGH’s adaptation of the amazing ‘leader leader model’.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” ~ Henry Ford
I was lucky enough to be offered a Job as a Staff Nurse on Coral Ward for when I qualified, and this definitely put me at ease knowing I would already know the team and the way the ward works. As I mentioned before, I felt well prepared after my sign off placement on Coral and was eager to qualify when the time came.
For me, it felt like a pretty smooth transition from student to RMN, of course there were bumps in the road and there have been times where I have felt out of my depth, but I always know that I can go to my colleagues and managers if I am feeling overwhelmed. I was definitely a very confident newly qualified nurse, however I was very lucky to have an amazing team who kept me grounded and without knocking my confidence, kept me aware of my limitations.
One thing I love about the nursing profession is that you never stop learning; from other professionals, from service leaders and from yourself. Even since qualifying I feel like I have grown so much as a nurse and as a person, it has been such an amazing journey already and it’s only just the beginning for me.