S.E.L.F Care

Hello my name is Deborah. I am a second year student studying Children’s Nursing.

I have just finished my first 7 weeks of placement for this year and I have learned so much; not just about nursing but about myself and the safety measures I need to put in place if I am ever going to last in nursing after qualifying.

My placement was in the Paediatric A&E department in my locality hospital. It was genuinely the biggest rollercoaster experience of my life! The first three weeks were absolutely amazing and I was on a high from just how many learning opportunities I could engage in. However, once the excitement had worn off and I had done a couple night shifts in a row, I really started to hit a bit of a wall.

Every morning I forced myself out of bed but once I was in the department and interacting with the parents and their children, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I soon realized my problem, I was taking the things I had seen on placement and difficult things the members of staff or my friends had told me and made them my problem.

The hardest thing for me has been becoming aware of the painful things that those around me were going through. I got to the stage where I felt like I was so overwhelmed by the pain and sadness around me that I just had no motivation to do anything…what was the point!

It is one thing to empathize but there is a danger that as people who care (which we all are otherwise we would be doing different courses!) we can carry around other’s emotions and pain as if they are our own and it is a dangerous place to be!

I am starting to feel more like myself now and when I came to writing this post it got me thinking, what things have I done to help me come out of the negative spiral I had gotten myself into?
Placement is hard, there are no two ways about it but you can do things to look after yourself and overcome this difficult episodes that we all face at one time or another.

No matter what I did someone somewhere would be going through an illness or difficult situation that I couldn’t fix! It suddenly hit me, how easy it is to burn out!

Here are four things that helped me and I hope will help you two. Here is how you can remember it: S.E.L.F Care.

  • Sleep. It is so hard to get a good amount of sleep while you are on placement but it is so important. Sleep helps us to process our day and if we are going to have the stamina for nursing, then we need to recharge! ‘Sleepa’ is a really good app I found that helps especially if I need to get sleep during the day before or after a night shift. Find what works for you and if you are struggling with your sleep don’t suffer in silence say something. Maybe someone else has a tip that has helped them and could help you too
  • E​at well​.​ Whether you are buying lunch on your placement or meal prepping it is important to eat well. Food fuels our bodies and if we are putting junk into our bodies, they will not have all the nutrients required to keep us going. Believe me, I know that it is hard, especially when there are loads of sweets and cakes at the nurses station and you just need energy to get you through your night shift but it is important not to get too carried away. What we put into our bodies affects our physical and mental well-being.
  • L​et Go​. ​I have kept a journal for placement since my very first placement last year. I have found this is a good way for me to process what I have seen and done and let go of things that have affected me during the day. It is hard not to take things home with you but it is important as students learning how to process our experiences in a positive and constructive way and not let them weigh us down. Do whatever works for you. This course is just as much about self care as it is about caring for others!
  • F​riends​. ​My friends definitely helped me get through these 7 weeks of placement. It is important to have friends on the course that you can talk things through with but also friends outside the course. Laughing together and even crying together is all part of processing and dealing with our emotions in response to the difficult things that we will inevitably encounter during our 3 years of training and the years we practice as nurses.

I hope this little insight into my experiences is helpful for even one student wherever you may be in your training. Let’s look out for each other and care for ourselves. You can’t care for someone else, if you don’t care for yourself first.

Author: Deborah Akinyose, Year 2 Student

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 Tia Dolphin (td00227@surrey.ac.uk) or Chloe Thomas (ct00633@surrey.ac.uk) – we’d love to hear from you!