Tuesday, 2 September 2014

It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times

With just under two weeks left of my programme, it seems only fitting that this post, which is likely to be my last as a student nurse, should provide a sort of overview of my imminently-departing nursing preparation. As the title suggests, the last three years have provided previously unchartered highs, and at times, seemingly unreturnable lows. They feel as though they have endured for an eternity, yet also elapsed in the blink of an eye. They have proffered a wholly unique and life-changing experience, but have somehow felt natural and familiar: forever changing who I am as a person, whilst also cementing aspects of me that have always existed.

In many ways I am glad to be at the end of my student-nurse career: three years of never-ending study and assessments combined with numerous transitory placement experiences, all of which are facilitated by accepting and maintaining a barren social landscape and penny-pinching lifestyle, is not something I'm eager to prolong in all honesty. Conversely, there are things that I’m not so keen to see expire, including the contentious yet much-loved-by-student-nurses supernumerary status (in light of the recent debates regarding CPD, why shouldn’t qualified nurses be allowed to arrange relevant and beneficial spoke placements?!), and the inherent protection in relation to what for the most part are, proportionate expectations and responsibilities, which in turn has often rewarded me with increased disposable time to spend with patients, often in contrast to the registered members of staff.

Looking back on the collection of posts on this site, it's clear to see how each academic year has informed my development. First year seems so long ago now that it almost feels irrelevant, which of course it wasn't. For the most part it was a gentle ride (excluding a particularly grim student flat that I inhabited for six months, and one placement that due to location involved 18-hour long days), above anything though, it's the excitement and enthusiasm that endured throughout, which for me is truly symbolic of my debut to the world of healthcare and nursing. I wanted to know everything, and was never satisfied with what I did l know, although not much has changed in that department.

The aforementioned enthusiasm and excitement extended into the first few of weeks of second year, however it wasn't long before those infamous 'second-year blues' kicked in. I can't explain what changed, although I do remember some of the modules being pretty hit and miss, and the reality of juggling assignments and exams alongside placements being rather a shock to the system. Second year was without doubt the best part of my nursing journey though, thanks to a truly spectacular placement on ICU, an awesome and awe-inspiring mentor who I am lucky to now call a close friend and career-long role model, as well as the awakening of what still is my infant nursing brain.

I began my third year feeling confident (but not too confident) and eager. I knew it would be a rough ride, but I hadn't anticipated quite how rough it would turn out to be. Things didn't go well from the start: both university and practice were unrelentingly stressful, which combined with my hard-to-let-go high standards, resulted in even greater pressure and stress. There were also serious health issues concerning multiple members of my close family, which obviously exacerbated matters. The stress of all these factors continued into my second semester, and by the time I had handed in my dissertation, it was clear to myself and those around me that the past seven months had taken their toll both physically and emotionally. I suspect I have always suffered with some form of low-grade anxiety, however sometime around April I found myself struggling with severe constant anxiety, along with an accompanying bout of depression. I don't want to focus too much on these issues for numerous reasons, but I do want to highlight my gratitude to my amazing friends, family, and GP for getting me through what was a particularly dark period, because I would not be coming to the end of my student-nurse journey without the care, compassion, and commitment that each of you afforded me, and I am forever grateful for that.

As the old adage goes, ‘time is a great healer’, and thankfully things were beginning to get a bit easier by the time my final placement rolled around. As with most placements, the first couple of weeks proved difficult - although more so due to the reasons identified above - but I steadily began to settle in and as a consequence my nerves began to settle down. As you might expect, core competencies for this placement focused on caseload management as well as leadership skills, and whilst I still make plenty of mistakes and forget things (am I the only one who never remembers when it’s time for meds rounds?!), there are definite tell-tale signs of just how much progress I've made during these past fourteen weeks. With said progress in mind, and the end of this my final placement now only days away, I am filled with relief: relief for finally reaching the finishing line against all odds; relief for the development of my knowledge and skills, which I was worried and convinced would never materialise; relief for my student-nurse peers who have completed their own nursing campaigns with both courage and determination; and relief for having had the courage to start on what has been a truly amazing and rewarding journey, allowing me to become the nurse that I have for so long desperately wanted to be.

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