The day after my course finished my first thoughts were “wow, I made it”, and “oh no”. It’s an exciting, but terrifying time, and to be honest I was still wondering if I was cut out for nursing.
I do love nursing, to be able to take care of people at such a crucial time in their lives is an honour, but let’s face it we’ve all had those confrontational patients that you can never do anything right for. I couldn’t help but think “what if I can’t answer their questions”, “what if I give them the wrong advice”, “what if I do something really stupid and screw up my career”, but I told myself it was normal to worry about those things.
After waiting for what felt like months (but was only a few days) the postman delivered my university completion letter. I felt nervous just holding the unopened letter. My stomach filled with butterflies, I felt sick, and opening the letter didn’t help. All my doubts about my abilities filled my head and, I’ll be honest, for a fraction of a second I wanted to hide away and not read the letter.
Then, my brain kicked in and I told myself quitting was not an option. For one, I did not spend three years working that hard to give up, and second, I would never want my son to think its OK to quit something before at least giving it a try.
The morning of my first shift was a whirlwind of excitement, worry, and a little nausea, but I felt ready. That was something I wasn’t quite expecting. I was expecting to be so close to exploding with butterflies that I would be unable to function, let alone get myself ready and eat breakfast.
Putting on my nurse uniform for the first time felt surreal to say the least.
Walking onto the ward actually felt surprisingly comfortable. It was only when the staff began to look at me that I started to feel like an imposter. They were all really welcoming, which put me at ease, but wearing the nurse’s uniform still felt strange.
One of the nurses asked about my biggest worry. I couldn’t tell her exactly. Fear of the unknown maybe? Fear of screwing up? Fear that I would make a fool of myself, by doing or saying something stupid?
Despite my worries, I still had to hold back a giggle and a huge Cheshire cat style grin at being able to answer the phone with “Hello, staff nurse, how can I help?” for the first time.
I will be supernumerary still for a couple of weeks and I imagine after that the real test will begin. For now at least it is only a little different to being a student, and not nearly as scary as I first imagined. By the end of my first shift I was feeling a lot more comfortable in my new uniform, and didn’t feel like everyone was staring at me quite so much.
I still have concerns about doing something stupid or saying something wrong, but I’m not nervous or worried. I know that I can do this, and I’m determined that I will.
Rebecca Coxon, newly qualified staff nurse, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust