What would you say if one of your role models asked you to present in front of 200 of your peers?
For the first time since starting my nursing course, I was feeling calm. My dissertation was almost finished and I was looking forward to my management placement with the knowledge that I’d soon be qualified. I was thinking about going on holiday.
But after casually showing my tutor something I’d had published recently, I received an email from my supervisor who is an evidence-based practice genius, the editor of a journal and holder of an MBE. “How do you fancy presenting something at the EBP conference in June?” it said.
Calm, did I say? I am currently trying to remember what calm feels like.
“Of course” I replied, oblivious to the fear that would descend shortly afterwards.
I am a ‘yes’ person, but this time I wondered if I will regret not saying ‘no’. Surely I could have made excuses. I am not Molly Case (though I wish I had her skills), talking is not my strong point. In fact I could do with improving, if I’m honest.
He wanted me to speak about managing the nursing course with children and about writing for publication. Although I have done those things, I don’t feel capable of speaking to an audience.
“I don’t feel capable of speaking to an audience”
I’m a single parent. I live in a council house. I am not, I believe, a speaker who has anything worthy to say to anybody really. Except he doesn’t agree, because he has asked me to speak to an audience of other nursing students.
“And don’t worry, there will only be a couple of hundred there…”
Many people who come into nursing have low self-esteem. We are by nature altruistic, and focus our concerns on others. One tutor once said to me that our career is dealing with other people’s stuff. We leave our own stuff somewhere behind us and focus on them.
And in that uniform, with my fob watch and my badge and my pens, I have developed a confidence in myself because I am good at what I do. I enjoy being with people, helping them and listening to them.
“We are by nature altruistic, and focus our concerns on others”
But standing in front of a group of people and saying I am successful at something? This fills me with absolute terror. Because I have not faced my own ‘stuff’ I still don’t have complete assurance in my abilities, and that is something I have found in nursing as a whole. We, as nurses, are very bad at acknowledging our successes.
To maintain rationality I have convinced myself it is a good career move. It will benefit me at interview and when applying for jobs. Despite reassuring myself, it is still at the back of my mind and to be honest, I am still in denial!
Nursing is a career based on personal and professional progression; the RCN and NMC both say so. I have done the professional bit through school and on the wards. Perhaps speaking in front of an audience will bring about my personal progression and expand my comfort zone. Despite my reservations I do believe if I can stand in front of 200 people and even say one word without crying, then I can do anything. By pushing myself I will only get better. And ultimately, I reckon that’s why he asked me to do it.
I will be grateful for the opportunity afterwards, because it is a good one, and if I can do it, anybody can.
Caroline Estrella is a third year adult branch student at Nottingham University