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'I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself'


Second year mental health nurse, Stephen McGhee, remembers his first day of placement on an acute ward in East London.

'I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself'

I  felt excited and absolutely terrified. The time had come to finally put all the theory I had learnt into practice with real people.

I hadn’t worked in a hospital before so all I had to go on was what I had read or seen on television.

The first day arrived and I found myself making my way to the hospital. My nerves had really kicked in and my stomach was doing somersaults with self doubt.

What if I wasn’t any good with the patients? Was I going to get in the way? What if I made myself look silly?

It almost seems silly that I had such feelings of self doubt

But after I was shown around the ward and introduced to the staff I began to feel more at ease.

I introduced myself to the patients which to be honest, I found very hard at first.

Staff on the ward were really friendly and willing to answer my questions. It was a totally different atmosphere to what I had built up in my mind and to my surprise, I was enjoying myself.

Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t have put so much pressure on myself.

It almost seems silly that I had such feelings of self doubt, although having reflected on it with my colleagues, we all felt exactly the same.

With time and experience in practice, your confidence grows. I can look back at my first experiences in hospitals and see how far I have come in my knowledge and confidence when engaging with patients and developing therapeutic relationships.

I’m half way through my degree now, and I’m really enjoying it.

I feel I am being constantly challenged, not only in placement but also academically.

I’m now looking forward to experiencing other aspects of mental health care and completing my training next year.  

Stephen McGhee is a second year student nurse studying mental health nursing at City University.



Readers' comments (3)

  • Hi Stephen,
    I also remember feeling nervous before starting my placements, infact before starting every placement I use to feel like I was starting a new job. I think the amount of pressure we put on ourselves under is not always a bad thing, it ensures that we stay focused and are keen.

    A great article though and very well written.

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  • excellent article which has perhaps filled an very important gap and highlighted what many of us may be reluctant to discuss.

    identifying one's difficulties goes a long way towards confidence building and also shows the dangers and pitfalls of being too judgmental in our predictions of particular circumstances, which many of us have a tendency towards, and such as you illustrate on your first ward experience.

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  • Excellent article Stephen, I predict you will make an excellent nurse, good luck for the future, you can nurse me any time :)

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