‘Oh my gosh what happened to you?’ A question that can bring on the greatest panic in 5 seconds.
As first years are getting ready to head out on their first placement there might be a few having this exact internal panic. Living with self harm scars for the past 8 years I’ve heard all the comments under the sun and for most of those years I decided to hide them whilst out in public to evade the questions and the uncomfortable answer I would have to mutter. When it came to choosing a nursing degree it didn’t even cross my mind until the moment we got our uniform and I realised that even in front of my peers I felt nervous and ashamed. I would dread the moment the lecturer would ask me to remove my jumper and would then spend the rest of the day with my arms behind my back. When it came to placement and the thought of potential employers, families and children seeing them I felt panic like no other. I was worried how I would explain them to intrigued children who had no filter and had never even heard the words self harm, I would sit contemplating all the scenarios and answers I could think of that avoided the truth.
It was soon my first day of placement on a general children’s ward and it was the day I had no choice but to bare my arms to the nurses and to all the patients and families on the ward. Much to my amazement, no one cared. No one treated me any differently to any other nurse or student on that ward. To this day I have never received one comment or question from the hundreds of children and young people I have come across. I have never had any parent or family member refuse me treating their child because of them. Over the course of 5 placements I’ve only had three comments from parents and staff and they were comments of genuine wonderment as they honestly didn’t know what they were, that gave me the power and I have to be honest I did not tell the truth. That’s the thing though, you don’t owe anyone answers, you don’t need to tell them the truth and you don’t need to feel uncomfortable and awkward. They are a part of you and they are a part of your story that you survived and now you’re here to help other young people who are having the same experience as you’ve had. It gives you a much deeper understanding and empathy for those patients that many other nurses won’t have. You can be an advocate for that young person, you know how they feel and they will be beyond grateful to know they’re not alone.
Be brave, own your scars and know your strength, say only what you want to say. It is your story to tell and your body to own. I am pleased to say the judgement and taboo is wavering and no one will think any less of you as a person or a nurse. Focus on what you’re here to do, you’ve made it this far and you can continue to grow and thrive and become the wonderful nurse that you are destined to be. Good luck x
If you’re currently struggling, please access support from the centre of well-being and contact your personal tutor.
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.
If you’re interested in writing a blog post for us – whether it’s a one-off about something in Nursing you’re passionate on, or as a regular contributor, please email Beth Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ellie Mee (email@example.com), Maddie McConnell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tia Dolphin (email@example.com) – we’d love to hear from you!