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Failure is your greatest success


Our new Learning Disabilities student editor, Rebecca Hammond, has some crucial advice for students striving for perfection.

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was one of the world’s most famous inventors. When he revealed his invention - the lightbulb - for the world to see in 1879, not only had he come up with something that would become ubiquitous, he also made a very interesting statement. One that would inspire many people to never give up.

It took Edison 10,000 attempts to make the light bulb, and after he finally mastered his invention he said that, even though he had failed to make the light bulb 10,000 times, this did not make him a failure. Instead, he found 9,999 ways in how to not make a lightbulb.

“I was striving for perfectionism because I did not want to be average, I wanted to be perfect.”

I came across, Edison’s idea of ’failure’ when I was finishing my first year at university.

It had been a particularly challenging year and if I am being honest I was looking for some inspiration. Through doing a little research into Edison and through reflecting on my first year as a student nurse, I realised how transferable Edison’s words are.

Throughout my first year at university, I was worried about failing, and I put unnecessary pressure on myself. I had to learn things ten times faster than everyone else, and I had to work ten times harder. As you can probably imagine, this perfectionistic attitude did more damage than good.

As a consequence, I saw my health deteriorate - and I was not enjoying university. I was striving for perfectionism because I did not want to be average, I wanted to be perfect.

“Another piece of advice? Never put the unnecessary pressure of perfectionism upon yourself.”

I remember making a drug error on my first placement. My mentor was supervising me and he told me to look at the Drug Kardex again. I looked again and recognised my error straight away. I rectified my error and my mentor praised me for completing the correct drug calculation. However, the praise never sufficed and I could feel my heart beating faster.

It was from then onwards that I believed that I was not only going to fail not only my placement but my whole degree. Not plausible, was it?

Through much reflection, I have completely scrapped my strive for perfectionism because it is an unrealistic expectation and it is NOT achievable. My advice to student nurses out there: learn things at your own pace. Everyone learns in their own way and at their own speed.

I was always comparing my learning with other students and that not only is an unnecessary pressure but it’s unproductive. Nursing is all about practice and involves a lifetime commitment to learning. You are not going to know everything and that’s okay! As student nurses, we learn from each other and we build upon each other’s strengths.

Another piece of advice? Never put the unnecessary pressure of perfectionism upon yourself.

It’s not worth it because it’s an unrealistic expectation, there is no such thing as a perfect nurse. Instead, think of nursing as a journey. You know where you want to be and you know how to get there, but no one is saying it will be easy. Your journey may be bumpy and may come across obstacles along the way, but you will overcome them and will one day be the nurse you have always wanted to be.

Never doubt yourself because if you do not believe in your ability then no one else will. Most people believe that other people discourage them the most. However, other people do not discourage you the most… YOU do! If you work hard, persevere and never give up, then you’ll be UNSTOPPABLE.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Remember to know that you are as human as your patients. I'd rather have a smiling happy imperfect nurse than a perfect nurse who would actually be a robot as it isn't human to be perfect. One of my previous managers had "Every problem is a learning opportunity" glued to his monitor.


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  • Great advice! I have just completed my training and throughout have put undue pressure on myself. Wish I had read this at the beginning.

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