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'What will your legacy be?'

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This week I began my final placement as a student nurse, the much anticipated management placement where I will prove I am a competent, capable student, one that is fully prepared to embark on a career in nursing. 

Lucy Cleden-Radford

My lovely housemate recently brought to my attention that from now on it does not stop. There are no more theory blocks to break up our placement time. It is shift work for the foreseeable future, which is simultaneously a daunting and exciting prospect.

I think one of the best things about practice placement is seeing how different nurses and teams work, and reaching our own conclusions about what is most important. Perhaps we all have similar morals but our priorities will likely be different, and it is these that shape the type of nurse we will be and the legacy we will create.

Unfortunately, there are some staff whose priorities seem misjudged. For one, staff who make mole hills into mountains by turning a small task into a big deal when they could have completed it in the time they spent complaining or using phrases such as “in a minute” or “in a while” when there is seemingly no reason except for laziness. I am a productive person and this seems to me to be pure bone-idleness and procrastination; it is just not an effective use of time. Also, staff that make every issue about them rather than focusing on and giving priority to patients, instead spending time gossiping with a colleague. Then there are those that feel experience and length of time in a job negate the need for learning; there is always more to learn, skills to hone and new perspectives to consider. And finally, staff who feel they have earned their wage just for turning up.

I have worked with a number of staff members who have the traits and habits listed above, and many who are the complete opposite and everything I aspire to be.

I was in a lecture recently about maintaining the capacity to care. We discussed how strong moral values, autonomy and positivity are central to maintaining our capacity to care no matter what is thrown at us during our professional and personal lives.

So, in order to create a legacy I can be proud of, a legacy of continual learning, teaching and caring, and being the best nurse I can be at any given moment I am going to make a promise to myself that I will keep throughout my career.

My promise to myself is to quit when I no longer love nursing. It might sound like I’m not committed to nursing when I am making a decision to quit, but I think this is vital. When I am no longer passionate about nursing and healthcare, dread coming to work more regularly than I want to, and spend every shift counting the minutes until I leave; when the voices of my patients and colleagues grate on me and I am no longer inspired by good care and motivated by helping people, I need to quit. Whether it is just that particular nursing job or nursing altogether, I must leave, because I believe that is the cause of all the things I hate most - a nurse who doesn’t want to nurse should leave and avoid filling that environment with toxicity and negativity.

My legacy is to be like the nurses who have inspired me to get to where I am now, those who have motivated me to continue when I struggled and supported me in my future career. There are plenty of professionals who, in earnest, have told me to “get out whilst you still can” when I have told them I am a student nurse; I promise to never be like that.

Lucy Cleden-Radford is Student Nursing Times’ learning disability branch student editor

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