So, the time had come for me to practice as a nurse. This was very exciting and a proud moment in my career but also a massive squeaky bum moment. Lots of newly qualified nurses will say their first shifts as a nurse - and the lead up to them - are one of the scariest and most daunting moments of their careers.
Lots of thoughts run through your mind. Are they sure I should be trusted? I don't feel that I know enough! The public are going to expect me to know everything; they don't care that I'm new to this role (the public and patients can be brutal at times). What if I make a mistake? I'm not ready! The list goes on. In truth, how can you know everything about medicine or surgery? I don't think anyone can.
But, armed with the knowledge from university and a very good poker face, a newly qualified nurse walks onto the ward for the first time. Having had the worst night's sleep of their life and having made many visits to the toilet before the start of the first shift due to nerves (not sure how much toilet roll I got through but I had emptied most of my insides by 05:30 on the day of my first shift as an RN).
Before I left for work that day, I was made by my wife to have my picture taken. I was standing by the front door in my new starchy, very itchy uniform. My wife acting like a proud mother taking a picture of their child's first day of school in an oversized uniform. But the only thing oversized in mine was my belly! In truth, now I'm glad she did take it. It's good to look back and remind myself of how I felt on my first day as a proper nurse! Plus, I'm not sure when I will wear a uniform again; now we all have the same colour scrubs due to this blasted pandemic.
The first shift - and the first few weeks - were so strange for me, having been on my old ward for many years. Stepping into a new role, having a new skill-set and new responsibilities just didn't seem right. People would ask me things and in my head I was thinking "where is the nurse...oh wait, that's me! Crap! I actually have to deal with this; not send this person to the nurse! Because that's now me!" I would still look around for another nurse. A nursier nurse than me. One that had the confidence to deal with any situation. But no, it was all down to me now.
This feeling went on for ages. I can only describe it as imposter syndrome. I'd got so used to escalating things (palming them off to someone else) to the nursing staff in my previous roles that it just didn't feel normal. As a student, you always had the back up of your supervisor or assessor if you were unsure about something. Even when they get you to run the show, so to speak, you had no idea how much these people did behind the scenes in a single shift.
Now, on day one, you realise just how much work and stress there is being a nurse for an end of a ward (more grey hairs are coming). Believe me, the stress doesn't go away as time goes on. But as you start to become more confident; become the nursier nurse that you once looked around the ward for, things do become easier. It's all about - dare I say it - organisation. Not the strongest trait for me, or anyone else with ADHD! In fact, I can barely organise myself in the mornings and I always run out of time doing whatever I'm doing. I get distracted by the simplest of things. Or random thoughts pop into my mind, like... I wonder how many skittles it would take to make me poo out a rainbow? (127.68 skittles apparently).
So, becoming more organised has been a massive task for me, and probably is for any newly qualified nurse. But at some point, it just clicks. I don't know when it did for me, but it did, and all the worries and stresses have now dwindled somewhat, although they never really go away completely. Even the most competent nurse may feel like they are drowning inside at times. But, just like I mentioned before, us nurses can hold a damn good poker face. Even when the wound you're dressing is making you feel sick from the smell penetrating your nose, all you show on the outside is a smile and you get the task done without a second thought. Although a facemask does make it much easier to hide the fact that you're about to vomit!)
In short, the imposter syndrome just seems to go away. And to be honest, I had the best support on my ward, from the whole team. So, in that respect, I was very lucky. Unlike some of my fellow newbie nurses, who just got moved from ward to ward on a daily basis, due to covid pressures, which made them question why they had become nurses in the first place. But they cope through face-to-face chats, or messages on our WhatsApp groups, some mutual propping up by each other, or even an occasional cry in a cupboard by some of my student friends. We still keep moving forward. Although becoming a qualified nurse in the middle of a pandemic was like a baptism of fire, I do feel we will be the strongest nurses out there The ones that had to learn to run before we could crawl. The ones that will be cool in a crisis, able to adapt to any situation and never panic. Even when we have eaten 127.68 skittles and we're pooing out a rainbow.