The journey to becoming a qualified nurse is a long, difficult, winding road.
In our first year, we are fresh faced, nervous, and hopeful. We work hard at achieving high grades, have impeccable attendance, and relish new experiences with vigor.
In our second year, we struggle with the length of the journey, the overwhelming sea of assignments, and deep personal reflection of whether this is the right thing for us to do.
In our third year, we reflect on how far we have come, and take charge of our own autonomy and learning. We write dissertations, interview for jobs, and start to truly feel like nurses.
We become confidantes, shoulders to cry on, and responsible practitioners who feel as though we are having a positive impact on somebody’s life and personal recovery journey.
People often say that nursing is not like any other degree, and they’re right – the hours and toil spent to become nurse are truly unique, with long hours spent, and many tears shed.
“This is a journey I have valued”
At the end of it all, I can honestly reflect that this is a journey I have valued, and that I have become so much more than I was at 21 years old – impressionable and naïve.
Throughout the last three years, I have felt a range of emotions: from sadness, shock, fear, apprehension and anger, to overwhelming joy, pride, acceptance, and togetherness.
I have cried for patients, after long, painful shifts where I have sat in my darkened bedroom, feeling anger at the injustice of what people have to go through. I havefelt disappointment when patients have self-harmed and ligatured, and I have felt frustrated when people have made slow or no progress.
However, I have also laughed with patients, skipping wildly down a hall just to give them something to do in their darkest moments. I have talked people through difficult times, filled with compassion and empathy for something I could never imagine feeling. I have watched people’s progress quicken, becoming more well before my eyes.
I have cried tears of joy when people who I thought would never get better have come to me to say thank you, and that I helped to save their life I have smiled as I watched patients walk away, discharged back into their lives, most likely to never see them again, but knowing that I have made a difference. I have felt what it means to be a nurse and feel that it has become a key aspect of my own identity.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey. In my first year, the stress of my first-ever hub placement got on top of me, resulting in a relapse of symptoms I hadn’t felt for a long time. At first, I hid these, fearful that my tutors and mentors would prevent me from continuing, however, over time, I have opened up to those supporting me, and without that help, I don’t believe I would be in the position I am today.
I have struggled with not feeling good enough, comparing myself to other student nurses who have high achievements, who have participated in every extra-curricular activity available. I have felt disappointment at not receiving all firsts, crying over what others would see as brilliant grades. I have come to realise that this does not, however, make me lesser.
I have used my own lived experiences and empathy to support patients, inspiring them to become more, to unlock their true potential. I have learnt to strive for excellence, rather than perfection, overcoming losses and mistakes to become the nurse I knew I could be.
Over the last three years, I have learnt not to be so hard on myself, and to believe in my own abilities through difficulties. I have developed and honed my personal self-awareness, allowing myself to learn and nurture my own growth.
I am a nurse.
Anna Kalyta-Spawton is a final-year student mental health nurse at the University of Derby