When I started my management placement I was understandably coming to terms with a lot of emotions. I was excited to get started with my career; anxious to make a good impression; nervous about proving how much I had learned; keen to keep learning even more… I was a bundle of contradictions, and for the first week or so I would bounce dizzyingly from feeling impatient to qualify to being almost terrified at the concept.
It was in my third week when I received a piece of advice from a recently qualified nurse that will stay with my forever. We were about to change a PICC line dressing, and while hunting from biopatches in the store room she turned to me and said: “So how are you feeling?” Caught off guard, I felt all the contradictory emotions bubble to the surface. I was suddenly revisited by all the moments I had forgotten something or felt I wasn’t ready for the job – the time I couldn’t remember the name of a certain drug, or when I couldn’t find something a nurse had asked me to look for, or my first attempt at catheterisation. She could clearly read this on my face, because she went on to say: “The most important and hardest thing I’ve learned to do is: stop punishing myself for everything I don’t know, and congratulate myself for how far I have come.”
I’m not lying when I say that this completely changed my perspective of my final placement. From then on I found myself practising more mindfully and confidently. Remembering this mantra reminds you to stay in the present and be kind to yourself. This is not to say that it’s easy! As someone with a grumbling guilt complex and an acute discomfort with complimenting myself, it is a real challenge. But since I’ve received this advice it has acted like a secret and powerful weapon inside me. It protects me from my own demons and helps me walk forward with my head held high.
So, in the spirit of my mantra and being weeks away from getting my PIN, I am going to celebrate my favourite moments of the course:
The time I took half an hour to sit and talk with a woman – who had made several complaints and so most of the staff had dismissed as rude and difficult – who was struggling with cancer and desperately missing her husband and children.
All the times I’ve advocated for patients with Learning Disabilities.
The time I built a strong relationship with a patient who, after a stroke, could only say the word “No” and managed to build a method of communication that meant the staff could recognise what he needs.
The time I helped a patient with left sided weakness have a shower, and I got completely soaked but it was totally worth it!
The time my friend and I spent our night shift break watching the sun come up through the 7th floor window.
The time I helped my mentor manage a patient having an active GI bleed on ITU.
Every time one of my friends has stood by me and listened to me, and every time I’ve been able to do the same for them.
The time I realised I could do medication rounds without my hands shaking and without being nervous that I wouldn’t recognise each drug.
The time I sat with a woman, her husband and her niece at the moment that she died in a hospice.
The time I laughed so hard I cried with a cystic fibrosis patient after I proved how terrible I look when I try to wink at someone.
Every first time I did something by myself and knew I had done it right.
I hope that this list helps everyone who reads it to congratulate themselves. I have to fight all my self-defeating instincts to write this – the voice in my head that says, “Stop boasting! Think of all the things you don’t know!” But I stop. I take a breath. I remember being in that store room and feeling that sense of calm when I first heard the mantra. And now, even though difficult days will still happen and I will still make mistakes, I have found a tool that stops me from surrendering.
Now: go make your own list! Congratulate yourself! And let us know what makes you feel proud of yourself. Because you deserve to feel proud!
Written by; Lily Parham (@Lily_Parham)