No matter how good your training is, and even if you are starting your nursing career on a ward where you’ve had a placement, everyone experiences that wave of anxiety when they feel the weight of The Keys in their hand for the first time.
I went through so many different emotions during my first week as a mental health nurse that I’m not sure I managed a full hour without getting butterflies for some reason or another.
On my first day I arrived on the ward 20 minutes early, much to the surprise of the night staff, and was directed to the kitchen where I made my first error. Never make yourself a brew without offering one to the rest of the team. Second error came shortly after: never down boiling tea in an attempt to correct your first error.
My faux pas seemed quickly forgotten and I was welcomed in to the short-staffed team who were keen to introduce me to patients and make me feel comfortable.
Day two came with its own challenges. As I was in my supernumerary period, and hadn’t been told any different, I felt the best thing I could was park myself in the day room and get to know the patients. In hindsight, this looked to the only other nurse on duty that I’d chosen to watch Jeremy Kyle rather than tick off any of the diary jobs.
“You could at least do a mental state,” she hissed at me, thankfully out of earshot of any of the patients.
I was delighted at the opportunity to do some nursing but every ward is different and I didn’t think it unreasonable to ask if the ward uses a set pro forma. They didn’t and my questioning clearly came across as stupidity when the nurse responded “You should have learnt this at university! Do they not teach you ANYTHING?”
Four hours, three completed mental states and one last ‘criticism’ from my new friend (“You type too fast”) and everything clicked in to place.
I’d proven I was willing to work hard and the nurse couldn’t apologise enough. In fact, six years later, she still brings it up whenever I see her.
This week, nurses all over the country will be taking their first tentative steps as staff nurses. To make this as stress-free as possible, we’ve rttcreated a page dedicated to newly qualified nurses. Have a look at nursingtimes.net/newlyqualified for tips and advice, blogs from other new nurses and a hand-picked selection of articles from our archive to get you off to a flying, evidence-based start.