Like many, my journey into nursing hasn’t been altogether straightforward. Ten years ago, I commenced a DipHE in adult nursing at Kings College London, eight years ago I dropped out in the midst of a grief induced depressive episode. Two and a half years ago I restarted my nursing education, this time the PGDip (adult) at the University of Southampton. It took a lot of courage, various diversions and a fair amount of swallowing my pride to come back to nursing and this time nothing was going to stop me (!)…Except that several months in, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which eventually resulted in me having ten months off the course. There is no way to sugar coat it, it was a huge set back and I took it really hard. When I came back in January of this year, I was still holding onto a lot of anger about having to take time out. I found myself faced with two options; wallow in my resentment or channel it into action – make the most of being a student nurse, the opportunities available to me and utilise the time for growth and development as a practitioner. Thankfully, I chose the latter and have thrown myself head first into every opportunity that excites and inspires me.
A couple of months back I attended a hospital appointment where I was hoping to be given an all clear from disease and instead I was faced with the daunting prospect of a potential cancer recurrence. Fortunately, it was just a scare. However, the months of holding it all together, the loss of control and bodily autonomy associated with invasive medical intervention along with the gravity of what I had been through really caught up with me and my mental health has taken a real bashing.
During this time, I had an assignment (a presentation) looming at university and on the sound advice of my personal academic tutor I made the decision to request an extension. Now throughout all my (many) years of education I have never done this – special considerations, sure, but not postponing a deadline! I’m much more of an ‘Oh just get it done’ sort of gal. However, over the last 7 months I have seen a profound shift in myself and my attitude. Rather than just trying to get through the course, so I can finally be a qualified nurse, I find myself actually engaging with what I’m being taught, expanding my knowledge and horizons beyond just day-to day nursing, to also consider the broader context of healthcare and the political climate that impacts upon it.
As a self-professed control freak I have an intense dislike of being anything other than ok. So, admitting I’m not totally on top of things does not come easily. For me, deciding to postpone my deadline was a mark of personal growth – signifying putting my health and learning needs above my desire to get the job done. It may be that come December, I’ll be pulling my hair out, screaming ‘why did you do this’ at the top of my lungs, but right now it feels like a very sensible, grown up, self-carey sort of thing to do.
Taking time off, asking for help, accessing support services and postponing deadlines isn’t admitting defeat and it isn’t a sign of weakness or inability to cope. If anything, it’s a sign of strength, of introspection, of self-care and of commitment to your professional growth and development.
Rosie Schofield (@SchofieldRosie)