Laura Carter considers why she fell into nursing and what might have happened if she hadn’t
What would you do, if you didn’t nurse?
I for one, honestly have no answer to that question.
I began working as a healthcare assistant at 17 and now at 20 I am in the second semester of the second year of my diploma. Nursing is all I have ever done and all I can imagine ever doing but had I not taken that job as a HCA I doubt I would have ever considered a nursing career, let alone made it this far in the course.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that students aged 17-21 are 30% more likely to fail than their older colleagues and if they had only obtained GCSEs rather than A Levels, they were 20% more likely to not finish their studies (DH 2006).
As someone who fell into nursing after dropping out of sixth form and college this only serves to prove the value of my previous experience working on a ward.
As a HCA I had already had the pleasure of emptying catheters, checking blood pressures and perfecting my hospital corners. I was fortunate enough to work with some wonderful people who taught me so much and to whom I will always be grateful. They include many a student nurse from the university I now attend.
That’s not to say that my background as a healthcare assistant has made every aspect of my student nurse life easier.
Though I walked into my first placement confident in my pulse-taking abilities I found myself unsure of how to make the transition from healthcare assistant to student nurse. In my last two placements at a hospital I was less familiar with, I often found myself slipping back into that role. When you are less at ease in your surroundings it is sometimes easier to go back to what you know. While that might be okay for a few days as you settle into a new placement, I know now you need to push yourself further rather than taking steps back. No matter how comfortable and reassuring that HCA uniform may be!
It is only on reflection that I can fully appreciate how far I have come since that first nerve-wracking day I spent as a healthcare assistant and I truly believe I will be a better nurse because of it.
Everything I learnt from the patients and relatives I cared for in that time will stay with me for the rest of my career and the rest of my life.
I got to experience all of the basic care practice without any of the sign-off book pressure and for that I will be forever thankful.
Laura Carter is a second year student nurse at the University of Kingston.