My course starts in less than a month. In less than a month I’ll be sat in a lecture hall with hundreds of other student nurses feeling those first day nerves. We’ll be talking about uni life and how the course works and it’ll be a nice ease into the next three years of training, lectures and hands-on clinical skills. We’ll make more friends than we have already at our welcome days, and we’ll meet with the placement team to see whether we’ve made the lucky dip and bagged the next three years in a trust kinda near where we live rather than 50 miles, three trains, one hot air balloon and a donkey ride away. Freshers will happen and we’ll all bond merrily.
Some students will have had decades of experience in care. Hell, some students are already fully qualified nurses in their home country but need to get that coveted NMC pin to practise in the UK, like Resmi who impressed me with all her nursing certificates and documentation and is frustrated she can’t practise just yet. Some have just left school, like Courtney who has literally no real-world life experience outside annoying school uniforms but who wants to be a nurse so much she’s happy to jump on two trains and a bus every day, and others like me (and of course another Laura) will be following a calling that’s been niggling away for year and years.
And I’m scared. I’m scared because all the jobs I’ve held don’t really hold as much responsibility as KILLING SOMEONE. Think about it. In PR the worst that could happen is your rather inexperienced and fluffy PR boss’ client being quietly investigated for alleged illegal activity and quietly getting their publicist in line with what an editor’s quietly informed you will be going to press soon, so you can quietly create a statement that – thanks to lovely privacy and injunction laws – will never need to be said out loud.
As a receptionist, the worst that happens is, well, someone actually realising they have a receptionist at the front of their office and having the incredible opinion that we’re basically skivs who do all manner of personal errands with a smile on one’s face while secretly committing thought-murder of said person who literally only realised you existed a literal day ago.
The worst thing as a copywriter? Making a typo that goes to print in a thousand magazines and realising you’ve made your brand look slightly more dumb than the ridiculous fashion they’re selling.
They’re not massive problems are they. Inconveniences, some might say. They’ll pass and be forgotten and no one will remember you putting your home address on a load of brochures and flyers that had been sent to potential customers at considerable cost to your company. (Oh the cringe.)
As a student nurse, though, my fear is getting something wrong and hurting someone. Getting medication confused and giving a lovely old granny something that could cause serious damage because I’m tired or just not understanding something.
I mean, read that quote. Read it. Pressure much?!
I have no fear of looking stupid. I totally know and embrace the fact I’ll be That Annoying Loser who puts their hand up and gets 6 out of 10 (fnar) questions wrong when asked by terribly patient lecturers. At the end of the day, I’m there to learn and no one learns better than having a wrong idea righted in front of 100 of your peers.
No no, it’s not that.
I also have no fear of the people I’ll be studying with, whether they’ll like me or we’ll be friends, or all the drama that was so typical of secondary school’s he-said-she-said. I’ll be 31 a few weeks after starting my course. I left that childish drama behind. Ain’t no time.
I’m happy to make mistakes when the only side effect is me looking like an idiot, I’ve had three decades to perfect that and perfect it I have. But there will come a time when I won’t be practicing on high-tech dummies or a patient-as-a-saint model. It’ll be someone in pain who needs medicine NOW and me hoping my drug calculations knowledge can figure out how much 80 mg of Tramadol Hydrochloride is when the stock dose is 50mg/2 mL. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA?
My holiday book, 60 Years a Nurse, has been really great in reading how a timid Catholic girl from Ireland felt in her new job as student nurse in big bad London. I’ve read about her seeing erections for the first time and having to perform last offices on a recently deceased overweight man alone with no one to help, never having seen a patient die before. I read when she didn’t want to hurt a man who needed an injection – her first – and, in an attempt to not hurt the man, accidentally injected under the skin instead of under the muscle causing the man to develop a rather large infection and eventual necrosis of his buttock. She made so many mistakes and handled them with poise because it was the 50s and Stiff Upper Lip.
I’m not as tough as an Irish nurse who practiced in the 50s! They were made of steel, hard as iron. We’re snowflakes in comparison to the matrons who ruled the ward like a sergeant.
I know these are all fears based on the unknown. But the reason I decided to basically sack off a nicely paying Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm job for a, well, access all hours for £3-an-hour-and-be-glad-you-get-that-toots job in an increasingly unlikely to exist NHS is because I care so much about people that I want to make everyone better. If I could carry the pain of the world and be in agony every day just to stop one person feeling pain again, I would. I really would. I’d take all the pain of the world if it mean no one got ill again. Stupid? Of course. Impossible? Completely. But it’s how my silly empathic self feels. I can’t bear the thought of hurting someone.
I know I will.
Of course I will.
This isn’t really a post for other students to read and sympathise with because we all have our own fears (but seriously if this is or has been one of yours PLEASE let me know) or actually any readers to read really because how can you even comprehend the responsibility I’m about to face? Almost 900 words later and I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I know I WILL slip up somewhere and I’ll need to have a chat with my mentor about what went wrong. I will probably say the wrong thing to a real life patient, perhaps I’ll be too harsh or too soft. If someone is given bad news, I know I’ll need to kerb the instinct I’ll have to give them a hug and cry with them. I can’t guarantee I’ll be professional right away, as much as I’ll try. I can’t guarantee I won’t make someone’s bandage too loose, or forget someone’s name, or clean out a wound a bit too harshly.
I don’t know what to expect. Nurses aren’t stupid people who couldn’t make it as doctors. They’re not doctor’s assistants, either. They’re also not tea maids or bed changers. Nurses carry so much weight on their shoulders because often they are the face of whatever medical treatment is going to happen, they are the ones family speaks to, they’re the ones a patient calls when they’re in pain or upset or happy they’re going home – even I can see that and I’ve not started my course.
I just hope I can carry the weight too.
(1,300 words. Not too whiny I hope.)
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