So, when I thought about what I could offer in this time of excitement and uncertainty, I wanted to give an honest representation of something that can be quite distressing and humiliating: what happens when you fail - and, more importantly, how do you pick yourself back up again?
I was placed on a ward in a hospital in my region; it was a busy ward but I thought everything was going well.
I was approaching the last day of my placement without having my final assessment completed. I was nervous, but was assured by my mentor that there was still time to get everything done. However, a bout of sickness meant that I went through my last day of practice without my book being completed. I was obviously frustrated but took the only option I had - I left my practice document on the ward with the intention of coming back to pick it up before handing it in to the university.
On my return to the ward I found that my practice document was waiting for me, but when I opened it I was stunned to see that I had been failed!
I instantly started to panic, looking around for my mentor; she wasn’t there. I asked the other staff what I should do because the things written in my book I didn’t agree with; they looked at me with sympathy - what else could they do?
They suggested I call my mentor and handed me the phone. On speaking to her she said that she had some concerns with me and that these had to be reflected in her assessment.
I had run out of time - I had to hand in the practice document the next day and accept the failure. There were some people that told me not to worry as you get a second attempt. While that is true, I couldn’t take myself away from the despair.
I wanted to use my experience to offer some short advice:
- Firstly, make sure that problems are identified quickly. If you don’t get on with your mentor or there are other problems then don’t bottle it up or think that you can solve it on your own. I made that mistake and it was to my detriment. Think of your university training as your patient. If you could see your patient deteriorating, you wouldn’t watch and hope that the patient would get better. Of course not - you would tell someone. In a similar way, you wouldn’t want your academic success jeopardised because you didn’t progress things further.
- Secondly, never leave your practice document anywhere. Letting it leave your sight is a recipe for disaster. Don’t rely on others to look after the most important thing you will own for the duration of your three-year course.
- Thirdly, don’t leave things to the last minute. My mistake was that I wasn’t assertive enough to get my practice document filled in at regular intervals. If I had, then problems could have been identified earlier and I could have been present when my mentor wrote her final assessment. As a sub-point, you should always be present when your mentor writes in your book.
- Finally, keep perspective; I was mortified when I failed because the prospect had never occurred to me. I felt worthless and humiliated at the thought of having this stain on my record. However, if I hadn’t been so melodramatic at the time then the run-up to my next placement area might not have been so full of anxiety. A lot of nurses have had to use a second attempt at some point in their training.
Getting a fail and coming back determined to do better says a lot about your character.
As Randy Pausch, a great lecturer said: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough”.
Adam Roxby is Student Editor of Student Nursing Times. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRoxby