Life As a Newly Qualified

#HelloMyNameIs Kaethe, a newly qualified children’s nurse from the September 2015 cohort. I am now a Staff Nurse on a medical ward in a tertiary children’s hospital in the midlands. I am hoping to give you a bit of an insight into life as a NQN, something that isn’t too far away for some of you now!

There are so many things I could and want to talk about, so I will try and cover as much as I can. I want to try and provide you with a truthful insight into life as a NQN without trying to scare you as well so I will try to provide a balance of examples in this post.

When applying for jobs I decided I wanted to move back home. Looking back at all the girls in my cohort, we all have wonderfully different jobs across the country! You need to work out what is best for you, don’t be pressured to apply for a certain post just because everyone else is, nursing is a wonderful career with so many opportunities and never forget that. The most important thing you can look for is support, make sure wherever you choose to start your career that the trust has a good preceptorship programme in place. This is an invaluable support mechanism which not only highlights how important a workplace values evidence-based care but a way in which you can develop your nursing skills.

Now a bit about how I was ended up in my job, I was offered my post in January 2018 however this was just a generic post within the children’s hospital, I had no idea where until July 2018 and didn’t start until October 2018. This was 9 months from interview to starting where hundreds of other vacancies became available so don’t be afraid to wait.

Upon starting I spent 2 weeks in local induction and then 6 weeks supernumerary before going it alone, the night before my first shift “in the numbers” I had very minimal sleep, I was sick to the stomach full of nerves. My biggest worries were would I be supported and what if I came across something I didn’t know how to do. I told the nurse in charge that morning about my lack of sleep and she laughed and said, “we’ve all been there, you’ll be fine”. I was shocked at how calm she was and miraculously 12.5 hours later, with her tremendous support and patience with my never-ending questions, it was 8pm before I knew it and we’d all made it out alive!

One of the ward’s specialities is diabetes. I am going to be completely honest here and say diabetes petrified me as a student, I didn’t understand it at all and for a while I was certain I would hate my job. However, I am now proud to say I would be happy to say to the nurse in charge “I will take the diabetic patient”. I am not saying I am a diabetes expert, but even understanding the basic management of diabetes is a huge accomplishment for me! This is all down to the support from the other nurses on the ward teaching me and supporting me. So, don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something you think you’ll hate because you never know what might happen!

One of my biggest worries before starting work was whether I would fit into the team. Everybody has times in their life where you must work with people you don’t want to. I was worried I wouldn’t be supported, I would be on my own starting, I wouldn’t know what to do because I trained in a different trust and I would get on everyone’s nerves asking questions. This has not been the case thankfully! On my first day, I met the other 3 NQN starting with me and one of our deputy sister’s told us about the Christmas party and asked if we wanted to go. We were all quite apprehensive, all having the same

worries about fitting in but decided we had to go and had a really good time! Getting to know your team is invaluable, you will have a preceptor however everyone has some kind of support they can offer you with their own individual skill set. Try to be as brave as you can from the start and speak to your colleagues, you will all need each other for something at some point, if you’re like me I still don’t know where things are kept! So, knowing who you can go to for what is important! Also, go to work social events, you don’t have to go to them all but showing effort is what matters. Finally, say thank you for even the smallest things to anyone that helps you, they will appreciate it!

After a horrible shift on my supervised placement a nurse who had previously been my mentor said to me “Today has been awful and there will always be some really horrible days but there are so many better ones where you will feel you’ve made a difference”. Some of my hardest shifts qualified have included being the allocated nurse for a child on Christmas Eve whose cancer diagnosis was confirmed that afternoon and a night of juggling a child protection case, a very poorly baby with bronchiolitis and trying to show a new dad how to settle and care for his new born on his first night with him whilst mum was very poorly in maternity. The difficulties you will face once qualified will be inevitable. However there have also been times where I have been walking through Tesco and a previous patient’s parent has come up to me to say thank you and another where I have received an email from the education team saying the students on the ward had given them some positive feedback about me, I was certain they must have got my name wrong! These are the moments you realise why you do it and more importantly that you can do it.

It is so important to make time for yourself when you start work, Amy told our cohort to make sure we did something for ourselves with our first pay cheque; that night I went for cocktails with the other girls I started with, I bought myself some new jeans and booked flights for a girl’s weekend in Dublin! Most importantly, make sure you book your annual leave wisely and organise things to look forward to you deserve it!

So here are my top 3 tips for the transition:

1. Don’t be afraid to take a risk no matter how big or small with your NQN post

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for support- identify your weaknesses and how you can address these

3. Enjoy it! We are so lucky to be able to have a career where learning and development is endless, and you can have such an impact upon someone’s life. You won’t remember all your patients but some of them will always remember you.

Finally…. Despite all the bad press the NHS gets, the public do have a lot of respect for us as nurses so be proud when you put on that blue uniform for the first time (although you will probably feel like an imposter, I certainly did). I can assure you when you tell people what your job is almost all will have a response similar to “I don’t know how you do it but thank you”.

Author: Kaethe Regan, Newly Qualified, Sept 15 

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

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