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'Just keep swimming'


Did you know that once upon a time, Walt Disney was sacked from a job for ‘lacking creativity’?

He faced a lot of setbacks in his career before he became the massive movie icon we know and love. He was true to himself, even in the face of doubt, and he persevered. As student nurses, this is worth remembering.

I skipped onto campus on the first day of the adult nursing course, brimming over with enthusiasm.

Remember the scene in Disney’s Finding Nemo, when the little clownfish is overcome with excitement on his first day at school? That was me; I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

“It’s an intense course” they warned… but there was no stopping me!

“You’re going to swim outside of your comfort zone into unknown depths and sometimes murky waters”

However, as was the case for Nemo - it wasn’t destined to be plain sailing.

As an adult nursing student, you’re going to swim outside of your comfort zone into unknown depths and sometimes murky waters. For me, this was having to face my social anxiety.

Social anxiety is the (surprisingly common) phobia of being scrutinised or humiliated during social interactions– from speaking in front of a large group, to everyday conversations. During these interactions sufferers may feel anxious, be overly self-critical and worry about how they are coming across. Physical symptoms such as stuttering and palpitations can also occur.

The phobia can cause people to isolate themselves, which can in turn lead to depression.

Social anxiety has affected me for many years, and to varying degrees. Some days I’ve hardly noticed it, other days I’ve gone out of my way to avoid people. When my initial optimism faded, social anxiety reared its’ ugly head within my nursing.

Trying desperately not to get shaky hands in front of my mentor, agonising over whether I said the right thing to a patient – added stressors that have at times seemed overwhelming.

“You too will doubt yourself at times, but stay true to your dream and the rest will fall into place”

So you’re a nurse that’s scared of being around people?

I still have days when social anxiety whispers “you can’t do this!” Sort of like the guy who sacked Walt Disney – it doesn’t believe in me. But louder and stronger than that voice is my own, the voice of an aspiring student nurse who knew from a young age, before the social anxiety, that she wants to help people as her profession.

You too will doubt yourself at times, but stay true to your dream and the rest will fall into place. The most important thing is not to be ashamed. I opened up to my mentor and personal tutor about how anxiety was affecting me on placement, and their support lifted a huge weight – the weight of having to pretend everything is okay.

“The most important thing is not to be ashamed”

For your perseverance, you will be rewarded with growing confidence.

I recently volunteered as an ambassador at my university open day. As I chatted away to prospective students, surprisingly at ease, I grinned to myself.

Ha, take that anxiety!

We nurses are human too; there’s no shame in that. You will struggle at times on your journey to being qualified, you may even face some inner demons – but in the wise words of Dory, ‘just keep swimming’.

Jasmin Turner is in her second year studying adult nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University


Readers' comments (2)

  • This post has certainly hit home for me, as it can sometimes be difficult to understand what anxiety entails because it can be different for each person and each individual situation. I personally dealt with anxiety in my first year on placement because I was terrified to get things wrong, disappoint my Mentor/colleagues or put patients in danger and therefore lose any form of respect and be removed from the course I loved. My anxiety would also flare up If the phone rang at the nurse’s station, my heartrate would increase and I would become clammy because I had the responsibility to ensure I maintained confidentiality but also pass on any information obtained from the caller to the staff in charge, which seems quite minor in some aspects but to me it was like a bomb going off. Fortunately, working under pressure and pushing through my anxieties, I became a much more confident Student Nurse and it reflected in my final placement of the year. All it takes is practice and learning from your mistakes or triumphs! And more than anything, have patience with yourself and not to expect things to make sense right away, it will follow soon enough.

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  • KM1 what you describe was exactly how I felt when I started my training 25 years ago. I so longed to be a nurse but the anxiety (which I didn't recognise as anxiety then) I felt, the fear of failure and of the phone ringing were immense. Of course they eased as I progressed through my training but my lack of confidence led me to leave the profession when I qualified. Twenty five years on I have just completed a return to practice course and I'm so proud to be able to call myself a nurse again. I loved the course and I even answered the phone on my clinical placement!
    For anyone with social anxiety I cannot recommend hypnotherapy highly enough. I wish I'd tried it decades a go. I wish the OP well.

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