I cannot believe my journey as a student nurse is almost at its end. As I write this blog, I am currently just over half way through my management placement.
And although the ward I am on is struggling with short staffing, as is unfortunately endemic across the NHS all over the UK at the moment, I am thoroughly enjoying it.
The reason: because in spite of the challenges faced, nurses always come together as a team to deliver the best possible care they can for their patients. That is what I love about nursing and working within the NHS in general; it is very much a team sport; the sum of its parts; and you are never alone despite how challenging it may be.
But nurses and nursing students shouldn’t have to operate within these conditions; we shouldn’t have to become increasingly “resilient” just to get through the day. Because ultimately, without the right working conditions we risk burnout and people developing “compassion fatigue”. We will see more people leave our profession or as is becoming increasingly evident, not have people choose to enter our profession at all.
By working conditions, I am talking about securing and implementing safe staffing legislation, making sure there is protected time for continuing professional development, having students’ supernumerary status protected, ensuring staff and student wellbeing and mental health is paramount, that proper bullying and harassment policies are in place, and that we secure a better pay deal next time it comes around.
This is far from an exhaustive list and there are many other things that will improve the working conditions of student nurses and nurses throughout their careers. But how do we achieve these?
I believe we do this is through campaigning and using our voices to champion our profession. But not just highlighting what is wonderful about nursing and glossing over what is wrong and needs fixing. Because, yes, there is lots about nursing that is great, and even on my worst days I do not doubt my decision to go into nursing, but we do deserve better.
“We need to band together to demand change”
I cannot deny, the thought of continuing to work in the profession in its current state for the next 34 years, which is how long I will have until I retire under current retirement age, petrifies me and makes me feel quite frankly, tired. And that’s not how I want to feel entering the profession.
We need to band together to demand change. Because each and every one of our voices matter. I would advise joining a union: whether this is the Royal College of Nursing, Unison or one of the many other unions, being part of one is so important, you will find your fellows and we are stronger together.
Together we can campaign for change, for what we deserve. And you can be as involved as you like. Because let’s be honest, not everyone has the time or energy to be a full-time activist.
Also, it can be really intimidating to put your head above the parapet and at times it feels like you often see very little ‘reward’ or real change for doing so. But being part of a union is like being part of a family. That’s certainly how I’ve found it.
People have often asked me throughout my nursing journey why I undertook so many extracurricular roles? Was I not exhausted? And I am not going to lie, yes, at times I have been. I have missed my family and loved ones and struggled to juggle my academic work, placements and other responsibilities. But I have also learnt so much and it has truly expanded and enriched my student nurse experience. I don’t regret any of it and I hope they will make me a better nurse when I begin.
At Glasgow Caledonian University, I have been a class representative and went on to be departmental representative for the Department of Nursing and Community Health. I have made friends for life at university and have loved my time, but I found a new family when I joined the Royal College of Nursing; I became Scottish Representative on the RCN Students’ Committee in my second year, going on to become its chair in my third.
Working with other student nurses and nurses committed to improving conditions for the profession and ultimately, the communities we serve has kept my fire burning even when it has been at its lowest embers.
I will step down as RCN Students’ Committee chair in December; I have finished my term as departmental representative at my university, and this blog serves as my last as a student editor for Nursing Times. Thank you for everyone who has supported me in these roles and to those of you who have read my posts. I am not sure I am going to know what to do with myself now all this has come to an end.
I was recently interview by the Voice of Nursing (@VoiceOfNursing_) about my student nursing journey after winning the Student Nursing Times Student Nurse of the Year (Adult) 2019, and it made me feel so grateful to reflect back on all my experiences I have had, the wonderful mentors, staff and patients and families I have had the privilege to work with.
”Remember why you chose to be a nurse, stay true to your values and remember what a privilege it is to nurse”
I have loved being a student nurse and now I really do feel ready to be a nurse. But I hope to be able to nurse in working conditions that help me be the best nurse I can be. And I hope you join me in that crusade.
I wish the incoming student editors the very best of luck in their new role. It has been a joy and honour to share my thoughts with you all. My last piece of advice is to remember why you chose to be a nurse, stay true to your values and remember what a privilege it is to nurse.