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ASK A STUDENT NURSE

'I can't handle the emotional side of nursing - should I drop out?'

  • 8 Comments

Do you have any advice for this student nurse?

“Hi,

“I’m a second year children’s branch nursing student.

“The other day a little boy died on placement and it was the most horrific experience of my life. If it was horrific for me then I can’t even imagine what his family are going through.

“I’ve always been sensitive and it’s always worried me that I get too upset about patients but this is more than that. I can’t stop crying and don’t think I can carry on with the course.

“Should I drop out? It’s not that I don’t want to help patients, I just think that maybe I care too much and am not emotionally strong enough for this career.”

 

Please use the comments section below to share your advice

If you would like to ask the student nurse community a question, please email fran.entwistle@emap.com. We will publish first names only, but please let us know if you’d rather remain anonymous.

 

 

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • You mention that you are a second year student nurse and this is the year that we all have this question that we ask ourselves... can I do this? Am I good enough? I have and I am just about to commence my final placement of second year. The fact that you show emotion and care is admirable and shows a connection with the people that you care for.

    Maybe on this occasion it is more than just the death of the little boy and a little to do with the pressure that you are under to achieve at University, home life, general other worries and also working what would a be a full time job as part of your training. We juggle a lot of balls in the air and sometimes this just gets a little bit much and we need to take some time out to do the things that we love and spend time with those that mean something to us.

    Talk to your mentor or another member of staff whom you can confide in and discuss your worries... it doesn't have to be a person connected to your current placement. Keep the details confidential and just talk through your feelings. I am sure that you will find that you are not on your own and all staff in your position who are qualified as well as those still yet to qualify have felt just as you do now.

    Take heart from the fact that you recognise your emotions and that you are willing to explore them.

    In just over a years time it will be you who will be qualified and in another however many years time it will be you who the student nurse is approaching with these feelings and you who will be supporting them because you have been there. Emotional strength will come with experience and we will spend our whole career learning new things and experiencing the highs and lows of nursing.

    Good luck and chin up! We're all in the same boat :-)

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  • if you have got as far as the second year you are doing very well indeed.

    maybe you need to find somebody who is non-judgmental, somebody on the ward, a peer, somebody more senior, your mentor or a friend or family outside nursing altogether to whom you can talk and express your feelings and who understands and who can support you, and possibly if you need it, a little time out and other distractions and time to reflect on how you can best go forward.

    even after 30 years we can all go through some hard and upsetting times and we would not be good nurses if we were unable to acknowledge our feelings and hopefully be able to share them with others. there is no harm at all in crying although at times we have to learn to control our tears and carry one.

    A big, big hug and lots and lots of luck and please don't give up, just forget your own feelings a little and focus on your patients who need you. xox

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  • I feel for you but please don't give up. I still vividly remember when I was a third year student more than 30 years ago in charge on night duty on a medical ward. A 22 year old was dying from internal bleeding from haemophilia and there was nothing that could be done to save him - he slowly bled to death over several days and I cried frequently in the sluice. These experiences are part of nursing but as previously said emotional strength does come with experience. It doesn't mean it protects us from ever feeling that way again - I've had many emotionally draining experiences since in 30 years of intensive care - but it has a positive side because being able to feel empathy with others, which includes feeling sadness when tragedies and horrific things happen, helps one to give compassionate care. Do talk to someone you trust - your mentor or another member of staff. A big hug from me too.

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  • I feel for you but please don't give up. I still vividly remember when I was a third year student more than 30 years ago in charge on night duty on a medical ward. A 22 year old was dying from internal bleeding from haemophilia and there was nothing that could be done to save him - he slowly bled to death over several days and I cried frequently in the sluice. These experiences are part of nursing but as previously said emotional strength does come with experience. It doesn't mean it protects us from ever feeling that way again - I've had many emotionally draining experiences since in 30 years of intensive care - but it has a positive side because being able to feel empathy with others, which includes feeling sadness when tragedies and horrific things happen, helps one to give compassionate care. Do talk to someone you trust - your mentor or another member of staff. A big hug from me too.

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  • I do agree with all that has already been said; seek support and take heart from realising that most of us have reached this stage at some point. I believe the ability to 'feel' for our patients and carers is what makes us good at what we do. As a nurse we experience just how precious life is but also the precious gift we have been given in our desire and ability to suport others through some of the most difficult situations they will meet.
    good luck to you whatever your choice; big virtual hugs coming your way :-)

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  • I am now retired but an RN for over 30 years. I have tears welling up even reading these comments and when I follow tragic stories such as Stephen Sutton and when I read about his MBE. His family must be so proud and I am so happy for him that he knew and was able to accept his honour before he died as a very fitting recognition of his achievements. It would be a very hard nurse or student who did not feel or even sometimes permit themselves to show these emotions.

    reading some of the recent and fascinating research on how the emotional centres of the brain and neural circuits and mirror neurons function and how they generate empathy might be of interest and broaden the understanding of our reactions. many of our feelings first rise in the subconscious and are beyond our conscious control until they rise to the surface where we can recognise them and try to deal with them but we have to learn strategies to cope with them, such as resilience, and release them when and where appropriate. much of this, but not always all, is learned in childhood whilst others of us continue learning throughout life as we have to face different and difficult situations. those unable to read others and express sympathy or compassion for them are said to have a condition known as "alexithymia".

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  • I am not a nurse, but have had confirmation of my uni place recently. I am replying, though, because I have knowledge of being a parent that lost a child.

    The nurses I remember most are the ones that cried with me, that got upset because they were going to miss both me and my baby (5 months old). Talk to someone, please, but whatever you do, keep going. Keep nursing, and never lose that compassion. You will make a difference to countless lives, and will be loved and remembered by many people, some who even you can't recall.

    Keep making a difference xxx

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  • It's importabt to not pass off your emotional connections as not being able to cope. Being emotional shows your caring nature and that you have built bonds and strong therapeutic working relationships with your patients. I would seek help from your personal tutor and maybe your GP. I have had to take time out this year as I couldn't cope. Over my summer break I have found the reasons behind this and plan to work on this in the next academic year to avoid my mental health deteriorating again. Don't be afraid to take a week or 2 out of Uni for yourself and to gain perspective (maybe speak to your personal tutor about this being an option). I'm due to start my 3rd year of Nursing this month. Don't give up! Good luck and all the best! X

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