Dear Student Nurses and Colleagues,
I have been moved to write this letter to you. I recently spoke of how much I loved my job on my Snapchat. I received a dozen messages from Student Nurses telling me it gave them hope to see a nurse who loved her job. They consistently encounter negativity from their qualified counterparts. This made me so so sad. How did we get to a stage where our future Nurses have no hope? Let me tell you why you have it all to look forward to. Let me tell you why Nursing is a job like no other.
Nurses In My Day
Who has heard this at work? I used to hear it all of the time. ‘When I was a student we had the whole ward on our own and no such thing as help’. Things had thankfully moved on from that when I started my Nursing training in 1998. At the time there were no CAO Points. We completed an aptitude test and went for an interview. Based on your results you were offered a place. It was fiercely competitive. Out of three or four in my class who went for it, I was the only one who got offered a place.
The Nursing School that chose me was Bon Secours Hospital Cork. I say chose me, as that is one of the first things we were told. Each of us were hand picked for the Bons. The chosen ones. Ask any of my nursing colleagues, I wonder if they remember? Right from that day they instilled a sense of pride in us. Now don’t get me wrong. We eye rolled our way through those times but I do remember feeling proud. Training was tough but probably the best years of my life. Carefree, single days where the world was my oyster. It flew by and before I knew it, I was graduating.
Have A Healthy Respect
I was never one of these nervous newly qualified nurses. Right from the get go I had an attitude. Experience eventually knocks that out of you. You think you know everything, untill one day you realize you don’t. So enjoy those over confident, cocky times while they last. You will encounter a situation where you feel completely out of your depth. You will learn from it. You will survive and you will move on. Try your best to foster a healthy respect for this job we do. A HEALTHY RESPECT.
The first day I stepped foot into the operating theatre, it was love at first sight. I loved every thing about it. The pace, the smell, the sounds, the sights. I loved watching these surgeons take people apart and put them back together again. I was extremely lucky to be trained into Theatre by a CNM 2 who loved her job. Back then, Surgeons didn’t ask for what they wanted. The hand would go out and you would have to know what to slap into it. We learned the procedures, knew what to look out for and were so involved we were able to anticipate what they might need next.
On and off for 14 years I weaved my way in and out of operating theatres untill one day I had enough. There was no pride. No great CNM to inspire the staff. No respect. Burned out and demotivated I needed a change.
So I followed my sister into Emergency Nursing and here is where I have stayed for the past 18 months. To change specialities so far down the line might seem crazy to some. For me it changed everything. I found my love for nursing again. My motivation and ambition returned. I was learning. I was being encouraged. I was using my brain! This is where I offer my advice to you. This is when you see where I am going with this.
The Beauty Of Nursing
Nursing Allows You To Travel.
First things first. This job called Nursing will take you anywhere. Anywhere you want to go. People all over the world are sick. They will always need a Nurse. Learn a speciality and you will never lack a job. People will want you. They will need you. If travel is your bug, go explore. Nursing can take you there. As you approach qualifying, think about where you want to go. The world is your oyster!
Nursing Is A Privilidge
This job is a huge privilidge. I can already see some eye rolling at this. Especially from my seasoned colleagues who work so hard on a daily basis. It is. Our job is a huge privilidge. No other job in the world allows you to share such vulnerble moments with people you do not know. The joy of a baby being born, the worry of a parent with a sick child, the family of the dying, the nervous patient awaiting surgery, the woman just been diagnosed with cancer. You are there for all of those moments. It is a privilidge.
Nursing Is The Hardest Job
There will be days when you haven’t eaten breakfast, lunch or dinner. Where your workload is so huge you feel it will never get done. When you want to cry. Where you will cry. Guess what? You aren’t alone. You have a group of colleagues who are all going through the same emotions. The same exhaustion. Team work is a big part of nursing. In the Emergency Department I work alongside the hardest working people and we are all in it together.
The Patient Will Always Have It Worse Than You
No matter how bad your day gets, you get to go home. Exhausted but healthy. Hungry but able to eat. You leave behind a patient with no such luxury. They are stuck there. Wanting to be healthy. Needing you and your skills to get them through this dark time. Be there for your patient and remember you get to go home.
You might sigh when there is a pad to be changed, or a call bell goes off. Imagine being that person who needs to ask for that help. They were once like you and I. My first Nurse Tutor once asked us to treat every patient as if they were our parent, grandparent or sibling. To treat them as we would want our loved ones to be treated. During those tough days, remember that.
Be Present In Those Moments
I’m brought back to the day I was working in Theatre. We had a gentleman in to have a Glossectomy (removal of the tongue) due to cancer. I was helping to put him to sleep and we chatted. People around us talked to each other about trivial things. Preparing instruments. The radio on. He was telling me what they had done as a family the day before. Then it hit me. I was the last person that was going to hear him speak. Not his family, his wife, his kids. Me. The enormity of that hit me.
Quite often we talk over our patients. Not to them. I’ve been guilty of it. Try to be as present as you can. Sometimes you will forget. You will be there in the final moments. Not the family, you. You will see a baby before their parents. How special is that? Be present. Be there for those moments.
Be proud of your work and what you do. As bad as it gets. As bad as the pay is. Be proud. Take pride in your work and never let your standards slip. I remember that sense of pride I had when I first put on my all white Bons uniform. I lose it from time to time. It always comes back. Remember your patient. Start with them and work outwards. At the end of the day, that is why you are here.
You have so much ahead. So much to learn. Even 16 years in, I am still learning. I changed specialities. I became motivated all over again. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t it exciting? The world is your oyster. All of the chances lie ahead. Find a job where your pulse quickens just a bit, where the butterflies in your stomach keep you on your toes.
And remember. Yes it is hard. No it doesn’t get easier. BUT, you have a job unlike no other. Variety, constant learning and helping others. If you keep coming back to that then you will get all you need from your job.