Navigating my way through a global pandemic as a third year student nurse.

The last three years has definitely been a challenging journey, but learning to manage my expectations, handling constant changes and pushing myself out of my comfort zone recently has been an unexpected challenge.

As I’m writing this, I should be starting my second week of my final, sign off placement before starting my NQN job in October (after travelling for a month). We should have had our last lectures a couple of weeks ago and I should be getting ready and excited for grad ball next month. Instead I am now 5 weeks into the job already starting off as an ‘Employed Student Nurse’ before transitioning into a registered nurse in 2 months’ time, we never had our last lectures and grad ball is well and truly cancelled. The exciting expectations of finishing our course, celebrating and then starting our NQN job in a few months is no longer a reality.

We are fortunate at Surrey that right from the start we have had amazing communication between staff and students, even when they didn’t know things themselves, they still told us that instead of just keeping quiet. We were very quickly sorted and knew what was going on, even though it took a couple of weeks and was probably the most anxiety provoking time for all healthcare students in the UK we were given the option of whether to interrupt for the foreseeable or opt in to the extended placement.  I obviously decided to opt in but that was not a decision that came easily and not everyone did or could make that decision. I had to weigh up the pros and cons, like putting my family at risk, putting myself at risk and in a way interrupting my education. I also decided to carry on writing and submitting my dissertation so deciding how to balance that with a new full-time job took some thought.

After deciding to opt in and filling in the necessary forms I was placed on the ward in my local trust I had trained in. Suddenly everything had been fast tracked, all the training, ID cards, smart cards and induction all happened within a couple days and we were on the wards. Luckily I’m on the ward I will be working on as a registered nurse so it is providing a transition period and doesn’t feel like we’re being thrown right in at the deep end of being a real nurse, however we suddenly do have more responsibilities mainly the fact that we are no longer supernumerary and are responsible for our own patients (with supervision and help of course). I’m lucky as on my ward that we have our own practice educator who is amazing and stresses the importance of us feeling supported and comfortable and still learning, I also have three of my friends from university in the same role on the ward with me so we’re figuring it out slowly together. However, there is kind of a sense of lost identity around us, no one really knows what we are and we don’t really know ourselves, we’re students but not students, we’re nurses but not nurses, were the same band as nursery nurses but we’re not nursery nurses. Every trust seems to have a different name for us and our role, like employed student nurse or aspirant nurse and there is a lot of confusion around our role and explaining it to people is becoming slightly tiresome. Or maybe we’re just creating a new identity? One that might pave the way for a new role in healthcare?

Losing part of our work family had to be the toughest time throughout this journey, someone I looked up to and admired very much and worked with for the last few weeks. It was the only point I have so far questioned whether opting in was the best choice but I now get to walk into work everyday and still see a picture of their smiling face that continues to inspire me to be at least half as good a professional they were.

This journey hasn’t been easy and has been met with quite a few tears and stresses. I have now finished and submitted my dissertation and passed my last exams. All that is left now is a few more weeks of practice hours and I’ll receive my pin and be a NQN. The thought of being a NQN is terrifying anyway let alone with the added pressure of a global pandemic, but at the end of the day I am grateful that I am still able to do the job I love, I am grateful I still have a job in such uncertain times and that I can do my best to help anyone that needs it more now than ever. I am thankful for my health and that I am part of such an amazing university and NHS family that support each other. I am grateful that I come from a university that has prepared me well enough to feel as ready as I can, and I have learnt from some amazing teachers over the years. I am grateful this difficult time has shown me my strength and my abilities. It might not be the ending that we all wanted but we are here and we are ready.

Author: Tia Dolphin, Year 3 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.

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