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The first time: Being a real-life nurse

  • Comments (9)

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 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.

  • Comments (9)

Readers' comments (9)

  • Anonymous

    As a newly qualified in A&E, I remember my supernumary period......shortest 2 hours of my life!!
    It got so I was saying "could someone please tell me how to....." in my sleep!

    Good luck and keep smiling to all newly qualifieds!

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  • As an addendum to my post above....I was meant to have 2 weeks, but we were rather busy and my mentor went off sick so.......I survived, had a great time, and learnt that sometimes it's better to dive in and just act shakily confident......

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent and entertaining article which brings back many good as well as some less fond memories. A great career with wonderful and such varied experiences I wouldn't have missed it for the world although sadly it ended badly for reasons outside my control after 30 years and just at the beginning of all the negative changes which have beset our noble and once highly esteemed profession.

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  • Anonymous

    with the worldwide shortage of medical personnel in the future doctors and nurses will have less time to fulfil the basic needs of their patients. HCAs in sufficient numbers will be too costly and less and less people want to care for others and especially the elderly. Robots are now being developed to take over many of these more basic duties but what of human contact and the personal touch so important at many levels when carrying out basic care and the attention which all of us, as sentient human beings, need.

    for anybody who reads or speaks German you can read further or listen to the Audio radio programme here.

    or further information in English

    The Robots are Coming to Hospitals

    or Google The robot as nurse

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  • Anonymous

    'Rosalind Picard: Robots will have a role in healthcare

    You can watch the full interview on BBC World News on Thursday 24 October at 14:30 and 20:30 GMT and on the BBC News Channel at 00:30 on Friday 25 October.'

    Also Nicholson on manager's pay
    October 2013

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  • Anonymous

    I hated being a student nurse, with the exception of my community placement. In the hospital the other nurses were mostly rude, arrogant, nasty. Comments like "if I were you I would think about whether this is for you" and "you are a bit cack-handed" and "... thinks differently" - the last comment was said to my tutor. There were only 3 nurses in the whole 3 years in hospital who actually supported me and helped me to gain confidence. The whole experience put me off hospital nursing so much that I obtained employment in a nursing home post qualifying. As soon as I passed my driving test I became a community nurse, where I learned most of the skills I still have today, 17 years later. If anyone reading this is having a hard time, please don't give up, it will be worth it one day.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 25-Oct-2013 1:47 pm

    I don't understand these attitudes or the need to talk to others like that. is it a lack of security? I can't imagine somebody who is good and their job and enjoys it behaving in that way. Nursing is such a varied career with so many opportunities. Why not seize them and make the most of them and make ever human encounter an interesting challenge. People, and even students or those we consider below us in the hierarchy have so much to offer and we all learn something from each other every day. We should always keep an open mind to exploring and learning whatever we can and celebrating it at the end of each day and learning from any mistakes how we can do better next time even if it just talking disrespectfully to a student. why make others feel uncomfortable - give them as well as your colleagues space to learn and correct and support them where they go wrong.

    Anonymous above, I too was surprised at the way I was treated, as a mature student, which was not always adult to adult although I have no recollection of anybody treating me quite the way you sadly describe. Great that you got through it and have found a job you enjoy. I did too and enjoyed a great career fulfilling all my dreams of working in Europe, learning some of the languages and soaking up different cultures whist living and working in a truly cosmopolitan society and enjoying wonderful places to visit and ultimately returning temporarily to the UK for 2 years to read for a MSc in Healthcare Management.

    As you say, don't give up, one day it will all be worth it, and with the qualification under your belt it may open up other doors.

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  • I appreciate your statements i like to your products. Navy blue floral nurse watch, with Light weight unique style available in affordable price for nurses. This watch very good looking and attractive design. This watch long time use to me there is any no problem.

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