The expression ‘follow your heart’ is overused and I feel it needs examining a little to emphasise it is not always a simple thing to do.
It isn’t so much following, as chasing, losing, finding, losing again, or racing after ‘your heart’. Just because you have a passion, and you are aware of your desires and goals and even steps to achieve them, does not mean they will be easy to obtain.
A few weeks ago I told my boyfriend I was disenchanted with the healthcare franchise, and that I didn’t know if I still wanted to be a nurse. It was when he asked me why I felt that way that I realised my problem was that I cared too much. My problem is that I want to fix everything, and I can’t.
I want healthcare provision to be perfect. I want services for people with learning disabilities to be everything they should be, for all needs to be met and for all individuals to be happy and cared for. I want to be overwhelmed with pride every time I walk into a health service, and impressed by the communication skills, efficiency and empathy of every person working in healthcare. But this is not the case.
I have seen many services over the past few years; some have been amazing, others absolutely awful and the majority merely mediocre. In my view the mediocre services are usually that way because employees become complacent - I feel sure they can’t have been that way inclined when they were hired. I have often asked support workers or nurses about a service user at that unit and received the answer ‘I don’t know, I’m not their key worker’ and this is an example of what needs to change; if you are caring for a person at all, whether or not somebody else has more input in their care, you need to know about them - and truly care.
I want to take all of those incredible support workers and nurses I see and put them in charge. I want everyone to have ambition and not just sit with their current level of understanding but possess a desire to always learn more. I want these people to be praised, and I want the mediocre and bad support workers to realise they are not doing enough and discover some magical power to make them determined to do better. I don’t want services to just aim for ‘satisfactory’ and ‘alright’ care. I want them to aim for positive reviews, not just a reduction in complaints. I want people with learning disabilities to be involved in their care, even when staff members have to input a lot of time to make this possible, and I want every single person working in healthcare to really want to be there, and to really, genuinely care, and not just stay because it pays the bills.
Explaining all of this made me realise that nursing is the right career for me, because I truly am passionate about it. I get incredibly stressed out though because at this stage I am an undergraduate and I don’t know where I am going or what I will be doing and I just want to make a difference. Unfortunately, I rarely stay in one placement long enough to see the little differences I make, and instead become insistent that I must make huge drastic changes for my input to be recognised, which is currently impossible.
I always had the impression that if you are passionate about something then it will be easy for you to pursue that passion; but sometimes truly caring about something makes life much harder and can be emotionally draining.
In moments when being stressed out and overwhelmed lead you to feeling defeated or on the verge of giving up, you should reassess and remind yourself of what is important. You are in the right place, you are doing what you love. Work hard to improve what you can but don’t let trying to fix everything destroy the changes you are capable of making. Stay passionate and never let yourself be disheartened because you care too much. Then, one step at a time, we will get there.
Lucy Cleden-Radford is Student Nursing Times’ learning disability branch student editor