From the very first day you step into the classroom as a fresh-faced nursing student there is only one thing on your mind: putting on that uniform. You know, the one that shows the world that you did it, that you qualified as a nurse.
After three years of non-stop assignments and clinical placements, I was ecstatic to find out I had passed my degree and would be starting work as an ITU nurse at my local hospital. This was it, the moment I had worked hard for: my first job as an RGN.
“As I sat in the staff room on the morning of my first shift in ‘blues’ not knowing anyone’s name, I wondered what I was actually doing there”
So why then when I put on the uniform did I not actually feel any different? There were no trumpets as I emerged in my freshly washed and perfectly ironed blue scrubs. No fireworks. No ribbon to cut as I crossed the threshold of the hospital doors.
As I sat in the staff room on the morning of my first shift in ‘blues’ not knowing anyone’s name, I wondered what I was actually doing there.
“I wondered if they had made a mistake and would realise that I shouldn’t be there.”
I thought about what I had learnt over the last three years and realised I couldn’t actually remember any of it. I wondered if they had made a mistake and would realise that I shouldn’t be there. Panic started to set in as I realised this was it - no more placements, no more introducing myself as a student nurse; from now on I was a staff nurse. I felt like a fraud.
My first shift in blues passed in a blur. I couldn’t remember simple things, was all fingers and thumbs when I tried to do anything, froze when the doctors asked me questions and generally just wanted to run into the sluice and cry.
The first words I said to my partner when I got home that night were “I don’t think I can be a nurse”. Luckily, he is used to my tendency for the dramatic and just raised his eyebrows and continued to watchTV.
“As the week progressed I didn’t want to hide away as much.”
I somehow managed to talk myself into going back for the second shift, which looking back on it now wasn’t as bad as the previous day. I started to remember names, the staff were all verysupportive and welcoming and the doctors took time to introduce themselves and were keen to teach the clueless newly qualified nurse the ins and outs of ITU.
As the week progressed I didn’t want to hide away as much. I started to learn about the equipment, the routines and the patients whose care I was involved with and got to grips with the ITU chart, in itself a minor miracle. At the end of the week I was exhausted but also thankful that I had talked myself into going back.
As I start my second week in “blues” I am reflecting on the transition from student to qualified nurse. I realise that the expectations I had of myself were huge. I somehow (perhaps naively) assumed that overnight I would evolve from student to qualified in some kind of magical transition and that putting on the uniform would make a huge difference. How wrong I was.
“I think back to that first shift now and realise that although it’s only been a short period of time I have already made progress.”
What actually happened was a transition from a competent student nurse with three years of varied experiences to a newly qualified nurse with basic nursing skills which needed to be developed and moulded to meet the needs of my ITU surroundings.
I think back to that first shift now and realise that although it’s only been a short period of time I have already made progress. So whilst I grieve for the lack of fireworks and trumpets on that first day, I also celebrate the start of my new journey as a qualified nurse and look forward to the challenges that lay ahead of me in my future career.
Allison Rosser is a current student nurse