Reflection · Self care

Dealing with emotions as a student nurse

This week has been a challenging week, I am out on placement which is a great experience but I have seen and heard some things that have challenged me emotionally and mentally. It’s brought back some memories of situations that I have been in myself, but now I’m on the other side looking in.
Before I became a student nurse, me and my beautiful wife had the devastating news that she had cancer. I don’t know if I can put the feeling into words, but I will try……basically it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus (I’m guessing of course), you’re in a complete daze, nothing makes sense, you have so many questions, you can’t talk, your stomach is in knots, you cry uncontrollably, you shake…I think you get the picture, its dreadful.
This week I was present when a patient was given the news that he had cancer, I could literally feel his emotions running through my body. The look on his face painted a thousand pictures, I just wanted to give him a hug and tell everything would be ok. My emotions were running wild inside me. But the reality is, I don’t even really know this patient, but I had a connection with him through my own experiences. That evening my wife was out and I started reflecting on my day and my time so far as a student nurse. Feeling the pain and the emotions of that patient, brought home to me that I was in the right place, I was doing the right degree and I really wanted to be a nurse.
Then I reflected on another experience when I was present when a patient died….(I never know what word to use). Going back to one of my previous blogs about CPR and my first experience of a patient dying. Bear in mind, in A&E you don’t get that patient interaction, this cardiac arrest came in and I had never met him, I knew nothing about him. However, when the doctors said the time of death, it was an emotionally challenging moment. I felt a tear run down my face, a feeling of hurt in my body, thinking about a family who may have lost a grandad, a dad, a brother, an uncle etc.
This week I have tweeted ‘There is no shame in shedding a tear when a patient dies it is not a sign of weakness it’s a sign you care’. I really feel this is so important, the thought of not feeling any emotion towards a patient, their journey, good or bad news, or the patient passing away would mean I’m not in the right profession. After reflecting on my experiences, I realised that as healthcare professionals we will come across things that will affect us and probably when we least expect it. We need to use these experiences to develop ourselves as nurses, to take time to reflect on our day and let some emotion out.
I have learnt a lot about myself this week, I have had a rollercoaster of emotion, something that I didn’t really expect. Coming off the back of three long days, it really hit me today and I was a bit grumpy (sorry to my wife and kids). But after a run and writing this blog I feel much better. Finally I am going to leave you with a couple of my tweets, I really hope they resonate with you, or they are thought provoking.
To look after people at their most vulnerable is a privilege/honour, it’s also an emotional rollercoaster. Remember to look after yourself before you can look after someone else.

(Andrew Haydon – student nurse) 

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