We have had a bit of a break with our nursing blogs over the past couple of years, but the sunshine, the return of our second year students to theory block and the fabulously positive feedback we are getting about our first and third year student nurses on clinical placement has re-energised us to post again.
With this in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts about how privileged I am to do the job I do, supporting the fine students we have across all our cohorts and all our fields. You truly are an inspiration and I thank you all for taking me along for the ride.
As some of you will already know, my own journey into nursing was not the classic “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse” story. I actually didn’t know what I wanted to be for a long time, I was a bit of a ‘drama queen’ at school (who would have thought it – those of you who have been in my classroom!?) and studied performing arts at a-level. I knew I wasn’t ever going to be a star and my confidence was not going to accept the harsh realities of a career in performing. I’d worked a bit with adults with learning disabilities thanks to my Mum and links to a day centre for people with PMLD, and yes, I thought some kind of health care role was for me, Speech and Language therapy was my decision, but having not really applied myself in my psychology and biology a-levels, I wasn’t going to meet the criteria, so looking for another avenue I thought that occupational therapy might be what I wanted to do. Well, my lack of focus throughout college – having far too much fun with friends and exploring the surrounding forest (the dangers of going to college in the New Forest and having a love of being outside), meant I did not make the grade. It was devastating and I really didn’t know what to do. So after a few days of moping around and generally being 18 and disappointed in myself, I had some big decisions to make. My decision was hard – it is not easy to admit you don’t know what you want to do, especially when all your friends seem to have a path ahead of them and a plan for at least the next few years.
So, how do you find out what you want to do with your life? You try things! You try things and rule things out. I ruled being a full time waitress, working reception in a posh hotel and working in the head office of a car rental company. But it was only by doing these things that I realised that yes, I definitely wanted to care for people, and it was in that car rental HQ that a colleague, who became a very good friend, randomly said one day “I think you’d be a good Nurse”. Hmmm!?!? Now that was a thought! Well, it wouldn’t hurt to look into – and apply (direct as you could at that time) in the August of 2000 to start in February 2001. I then went on holiday!
Cue the craziness that followed! I return from holiday on Wednesday 26th September to a letter from the University inviting me to an interview on Friday 28th September. I feel sick. I attend. I am offered a place there and then to start on 2nd October! In 4 days! Whoa!! I even remember saying to the tutor interviewing me “but…really?… I need to call my Mum!”. And that was it. I spent the afternoon going through the administration processes for admission. Registering and finding somewhere to live that was available to move into over the weekend.
I can’t say my love of nursing was immediate, sadly my first year was tough. Placement was tough. But the support of my tutors and my mentor (now called Practice Assessor) kept me going. Years 2 and 3 were amazing, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, I still didn’t know which area I wanted to work in, but I was becoming a nurse, not just what I did, but who I was, who I still am. Nursing started defining me as a person. I knew, by the end of my programme that, eventually, I wanted to teach – I wanted to support people to become nurses, the best they could be and develop the love of caring that I had. I aimed and still aspire to be even half as inspirational as they were to me. And I can only thank them for their unending patience and support with the young, green and scared 19 year old that stood before them in her first year and championed her to get through.
So, what has all this got to do with my first statement – I feel privileged to be in this position? I have witnessed so many students start their own journeys in a similar place to me, unsure of what they are doing, still developing their sense of self and not entirely knowing who they are yet. Struggling, yet persevering through multiple challenges life throws at them, but still they keep going and they make it! They make it to become beautiful, kind, caring, knowledgeable and skilled nurses. I see them blossom through getting involved in discussion and activities, despite being unsure of whether they are right or wrong with their answers. I see them brave putting themselves forward to take part in simulation scenarios, even though they are terrified of ‘performing’ in front of others. I see them come back from bitter disappointment when they haven’t quite understood an assessment and have to retrieve it, smashing it second time around and proving to themselves they can absolutely do this and they deserve to be here studying with everyone else they are sat with.
To be part of the journey for so many to become a nurse, to be a nurse, to feel that unerring sense of belonging to a community of people who all care and want to do their best and be their best for others, to know I have helped in some small way to #findyourteam – that’s what makes me #proudtobesurrey. I Thank You.