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'This is how I became a newly qualified nurse working on ICU'

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After three years of waiting for this moment, it was a mixture of emotions stepping onto the ward for the first time as a newly qualified staff nurse.

Trepidation, excitement, nervousness, questioning my abilities - all of these were on my mind as I changed into my scrubs. Here’s how I got there…

Studying at Manchester Metropolitan University has given me the knowledge and skills I need to be a nurse.

The first step to getting a job is the Employability Week run by the university in your last six months of training. This encompassed what to include in a personal statement on job application forms, talks from ward managers about what to expect as a newly qualified nurse, interview practice and how to prepare for interviews when we have been shortlisted.

Next was applying and interviews. I was a bag of nerves pressing send on my first job application form, because it was suddenly real that I was going to be a registered nurse in a few short months. But as I applied for more positions, I soon found these nerves turned to excitement as I imagined myself in my blue uniform.

I got an email on my phone telling me an employer had been in touch - I couldn’t get on the site quick enough. Just as I had hoped, it was an interview invite. It was the trust where I had undertaken all my placements, and the place I knew I wanted to work.

When interview day arrived I was glad to have done so much preparation. I had read up about the trust and current areas of focus including the values of the trust with regards to patient care.

I found one question more difficult to answer than any other - why I wanted to be a nurse

Obviously going to interviews is always nerve wracking, so I went through as many practice interviews as my husband was prepared to listen to! During these practice interviews I found one question more difficult to answer than any other - why I wanted to be a nurse. It might sound stupid but I just couldn’t put it into words. But by the time the day came I knew exactly what I was going to say.

A few hours after the interview I was called by the trust’s HR department informing me that I had the job on ICU. I screamed down the phone and couldn’t believe it. I’d had a placement on this particular ICU and knew from then it was where I wanted to work.

Before I knew it, I had passed my final placement and finished my nursing course. The last week of uni flew past and I was to start work the following week - but first came the graduation ball. This was an evening to celebrate our achievements and mark the fact that we had finally become nurses. It was a night filled with emotion; it was sad to think I may never see some of my course mates again as we moved to different parts of the country to embark on our careers.

Prior to going onto the ward I had a two-week perceptorship period, which involved numerous study days and assessments. This allowed us to voice concerns and worries about going onto the wards - for instance, medication administration, time management and colleagues’, patients’ and relatives’ expectations of us. By the time perceptorship was over I was ready for the ward.

Finally I was there on the ICU in my scrubs with an ID badge that said ‘Edel Norris, Qualified Nurse’. I was like a rabbit in the headlights; I knew I had a lot of learning ahead of me. Being on ICU I’m extremely lucky to have a five-week supernumery period with two weeks supervised practice. I was just getting comfortable when my pin came through the post, which meant I was now allowed to give medication. The anxiety returned!

I am now about to start practising on my own, but know that I am not really on my own as on my unit there is a wealth of support around me whenever I need it. People have said it will take a good six months for me to settle in and feel confident in what I am doing. There will be good days and bad days, but I’m in a job that I love and have worked hard to achieve, working on a unit where I want to progress my career. 

Edel Norris studied adult nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University and now works in ICU.

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