I have just finished my first week on the ward as a staff nurse. Granted I am still waiting for my PIN and I am currently supernumerary, but I’m wearing the uniform, which feels fantastic.
I’m not going to lie, not having my PIN yet hindered my experience and I had to default back to getting everything I did countersigned, which made me feel like I was taking backwards steps rather than moving towards independent working. There was a weird limbo feeling where although I was wearing the staff nurse uniform I still felt more comfortable working and chatting with the student nurses. I also had a brief identity crisis and answered the phone saying, “student nurse speaking, no I mean staff nurse, actually I mean auxiliary, how can I help?” Needless to say it was met with a giggle.
It’s a very daunting experience, especially with the long wait between the end of lectures and start of work. For me it was especially stressful, as all the steps require some waiting around for emails, post and the HR department - I am not great at waiting around. But eventually things came together, I collected my uniforms, arranged a start date, signed some papers, got my ID badge and off I went to the ward.
I am very lucky to be starting on a ward that I am familiar with, I had a placement here earlier in the year and liked it so much it was my top choice for my first job. Because of this familiarity I set to work straight away.
I was unsure at first whether or not to tell patients it was my first day, but ultimately I had to explain why I couldn’t fetch their medications, and why I introduced myself as an auxiliary even though my uniform said otherwise. When I told them that I was newly qualified their faces lit up. Each and every person I told was full of congratulations. They were interested in my education and the path I was planning to take with my career. It became a tool I used to start conversations, ones where I learnt a lot about the patients, I was able to offer advice about their health and they could ask me questions about their treatment or their care.
Student nurses approached me, more open to asking me questions. I worked with them, answered their questions and asked them ones in return. Once or twice, when they had concerns about their patients, I was bought observation charts to look over and I worked with them and helped them make decisions about any interventions.
Then I had a thought: I am nursing! Sometimes you don’t even realise what you have learnt, sometimes you don’t even know you are already putting it into practice. I guess that shows the importance of reflection.
At the time I felt useless, like a spare part just dawdling around the ward, but when I look back I see it was valuable experience. The patients experienced a nurse who had time to talk to them, the student nurses experienced a nurse who was approachable and had the time to explain things, and I had time to learn about the ward, the patients and the nursing team.
All proof that learning and reflection doesn’t and shouldn’t stop after graduating.
Shellie Jean Radford is a staff nurse on an upper GI and general surgical ward at Nottingham City Hospital