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'I will do everything I can to make sure I am good enough'

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University, exams, writing and reading have all been my priority now for a few months.

I am still living off the buzz of meeting new people and proudly stating to whoever asks that I am a student nurse. At the moment it’s all about me and if I am good enough to pass exams and do essays or fit in to the lecture theatre. It’s a status and a word – nurse.

Although I have my reasons for wanting to be a nurse and have had experience, I still don’t think I have faced the reality of what it all this means.

Placement day is approaching, the day we go out to learn and be apart of this wonderful career we have set our minds to. We know why we are doing it, we have told many why, but until we do it, we will wonder “am I good enough?”

It’s the night before and I have made all my arrangements, I have sorted my uniform, it’s neatly ironed and set aside ready for the morning. I have made my breakfast, lunch and dinner all ready to go with me, my badge, my ID and my watch. I have everything that will make me feel and look prepared because at that moment it’s still about me. Am I good enough?

I wake up after a nervous sleep, the day has arrived, and at last I am going to be a nurse. I do all the things I want and need to do to get me ready for this day. I wonder as I make my way in while its still dark and my body is still in shock at the rude awakening, I hope it’s all good enough. I arrive at a recently built building, it’s all fresh, shiny and I am just beaming with excitement. I feel great because so far, it looks good enough.

I get changed into that clean pressed and organised uniform, it’s all strange and slightly scary at this point but it’s what I wanted, I chose to do this so I go ahead into the ward,

I walk in and I put on a brave face because it’s still at that moment about me, and I wonder am I good enough?

Once I am there, I’m stood with all the nurses, real nurses. Some are tired, some are bouncy and full of life, and some just look at me, I can see the look – they are thinking “will she keep up?”, “will she want to help?”, “she has no clue about this job” and I am thinking they are thinking about me – “is she good enough?”

I meet my mentor who is lovely and really wants me to learn. I am following her, watching her every move and listening to everything she says and although she is good to me, she has drug rounds to do, paperwork to finish, patients to assist with and worried families to talk to, She is at the end of her long shifts, probably tired but hardworking. I am stood there, wanting her to think that I am good enough.

Finally, I am introduced to patients and they all have their own reasons for needing to be here. I walk in with a smile because of course, I want them to like me, I chose to be there, I wanted to be there. I note that not many smiled back. The look in their tired, fed-up eyes but I’m still in that moment wondering do they like me, am I good enough?

I have been asked to assist the patients to start their day, to help them wash, dress, get breakfast and a lot of the things I did for myself before I arrived, the things I chose to do, the things I was able to do. It’s obvious as I start to help that these tasks were not so manageable for some and as I am helping them in a shower or brush their teeth, sharing their most personal and vunerable moments, I am hoping that I am good enough.

Some have almost given up but others still have this fight, this light in them, but mostly I can see that they have no choice, they can’t do it themselves as much as they try, as much as they want and as much as I am there trying to be polite and positive for them, I have to stop asking if I am good enough. I don’t need to know because I should be good enough for them. 

Once all the morning routines are finished and there is a bit of time to chat and get to know these patients, I hear their stories and they tell me about the lives they have outside this room.

“They are the reason I got up this morning and did all those little things I take for granted”

One patient is telling me proudly about their marriage of 60 years and I ask if they will be visiting today. There is silence and I can almost see their heart break in the expression on their face and tears in their eyes because it is not possible, they are in another building like this one with their memory slipping away and unable to remember the life they had together.

It is at that moment I realise that they are the reason I got up this morning and did all those little things I take for granted, which I have just had to assist them to do. They are the reason I have chosen to be here.

I can walk in and out of this building, I am able to still make my memories. This is not any more about the lecture theatre or the uniform or any of those things that mattered up to that moment, it’s not about me or if I’m good enough, it’s about that person sitting in that bed or chair. It’s about whether I can make even just a moment of their life more dignified.

I don’t need a smile back, I need to keep smiling at them, I need them to know that I want to be there because now I know it’s not about if I think I am good enough. Now I know I will do everything I can to make sure I am good enough for them.

Nicola Phillips is a first-year student at the University of Stirling

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