As I sit here on a Saturday night, procrastinating instead of revising for my statistics exam on Tuesday, I look back and wonder if I have done the right thing.
I finished my nurse training last September and rather than go straight into practice I decided to take a year to complete my masters before, hopefully, applying to become a health visitor.
It has been a journey of the kind I never expected, one that has left me frustrated, exhilarated and challenged - a truly eye-opening experience.
Yet as I sit and try to revise words and phrases in a language I seem to struggle to understand, my nursing colleagues are either preparing for night shifts, coming home from day shifts or enjoying a weekend off.
“I miss the warm feeling I got from caring for someone who is ill”
I miss being a part of it.
I miss the nursing culture and the energy on the wards.
I miss the warm feeling I got from caring for someone who is ill, or helping their relatives.
I miss the way I used to proudly iron and wear my uniform.
I miss being a nurse.
I applied for this course not really thinking they would accept me. So when I got in I was excited - my luck was in. After all, people like me - a mature student and single mum - we don’t get masters degrees, so society tells us. It was an opportunity for my future and worth spending a year doing something which may give me more options within the complex world of healthcare. Better for me, and for my kids.
The course itself teaches research methods for health. I will come out as an adept clinical researcher. We receive weekly bulletins about PhD grants and funding, opportunities arising at the Department of Health, current students making international news.
Of course, these opportunities are amazing and the people winning them completely deserving. It is just, as I sit here and type forlornly, I do not know if this is where I want to be.
“I do not know if this is where I want to be”
I have learnt how to do statistics (although it is my weakest subject, and my exam result may tell a different story). I have written a philosophy essay about how research is based on personal perception using words I did not know existed before this course. I recently submitted a critique of randomised controlled trials and was amazed I could pick out flaws in what is considered the gold standard of evidence.
I am still learning, still updating my skills. And since the degree is health-based it is counted in my NMC hours so contributes to my professional development.
However, it is not nursing and it is not teaching me to nurse.
Unlike so many of the colleagues with whom I qualified, I am not coming home after shifts having made peoples’ lives better. I am not developing the practical skills from my training. When they have conversations about completing their preceptorships - about how difficult they are finding it or how much they enjoy being newly qualified - I can’t join in.
I am on a course with skilled and experienced healthcare professionals who have shone in their fields and I feel proud and fortunate to learn amongst them.
“It is not the place where I am comfortable, because it is not nursing”
But in my heart of hearts it is not the place where I am comfortable, because it is not nursing. If I had any doubts about the profession being right for me beforehand, I am now sure that it is. My senses miss the world that is nursing; the sounds and smells, and the feeling of holding someone’s hand.
I may soon be a clinical researcher but I will always be a nurse.
Hopefully, those critical skills will assist me in managing patient care but there is much I still need to learn to fulfil the role that I worked hard for during those three years.
Caroline Estrella is a newly qualified nursing studying towards her masters