Since I started training to become a children’s nurse I have been already qualified in the eyes of my friends and family.
They phone me up before seeking professional advice: after an opinion and advice be it about their child, their friend’s child or themselves.
To start with I was flattered: their support and belief in me only pushing me on - I would laugh it off and point them in the direction of someone who is qualified and knows for certain what they are talking about.
I am now at a point, though, when I am starting to panic and realise that I now should know. Shouldn’t I? I qualify in six months.
I should no longer be laughing it of: I should know. My friend phoned me a few weeks ago, concerned about her daughter’s temperature but she was otherwise well in herself: I reassured her but said to check with a doctor as usual, she did and her daughter was admitted and put on IV antibiotics with a chest infection. I felt awful. I know that my job isn’t to diagnose and that there is no way I could’ve suggested a chest infection through a telephone call but it un-nerved me: what if she hadn’t phoned the doctor?
There is something about friends and families children being sick that make me question my ability as I find it harder to cope with them- the problems seem scarier out of my uniform and away from my professional role. I don’t have children of my own, and the question that is often put to me by friends from other branches is if not having my own children makes it easier? I have heard arguments on both sides and to be honest I have no idea.
I do however have a nephew who I am incredibly close too -who when he gets poorly all of my rational thought goes out of the window and I am reminded how terrifying it is to see a child sick and be so helpless. To not always be able to find the words to reassure them: it’s horrible. How a “simple day surgery” case actually isn’t day surgery at all: it is months of planning, from the initial doctor’s appointment about the concern, booking time of work, arranging school etc.- and that is before you have even addressed seeing your loved one go to theatre. It’s scary, and when I am not in my uniform I am scared and unsure. I am an aunty and a friend, I find it hard to put my student nurse head on because I am emotionally invested -but I keep enough logical thought to point them in the right direction of those who aren’t.
Perhaps this will change: when I become a practicing nurse and it becomes embedded in me more as a person I’ll be able to help those I’m close too as well as I do patients? For now though I use my experiences and fears constructively, to be able to empathise and understand as close as I am able too-acknowledge how scary it is to see your child sick, go to theatre- no matter how apparently minor. I keep hold of these emotions and feelings as they help me and give me confidence- and as a student nurse anything that helps your confidence can’t be bad.
For now I’ll try to not overthink how I react to children of my friends and my own family, hope it gets easier and hope in a way that they still have enough faith in me to at least ask my opinion- knowing ill point them away. In an answer to my friends: having a nephew doesn’t make being a student nurse hard, but being a student nurse makes being an aunty even harder.
Tessa Jones is a third year child branch nursing student studying at the University of Nottingham.