NQN · Reflection

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

Many student nurses know exactly where they want to work, some have a vague idea and others absolutely none. When you first start out, there is little pressure to have decided (although you will be asked repeatedly during your education). However, as the countdown to newly qualified nurse commences, the pressure to know your destiny drastically increases.

I’m due to qualify in January 2019 so whilst I still have plenty of time to apply for jobs, it’s definitely about time I knew what exactly it is that I want to do. I’ll be honest with you here – I’m more than a little conflicted. Last night I dreamt about general practice nursing ALL night, today I’ve decided I absolutely must be somewhere I can achieve IV competencies, tomorrow who knows!? Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m flighty or unfocussed – whatever I do I will give it my all. My problem is that I love so many areas of nursing (almost all in fact)! In many respects this a very lucky position to be in but it doesn’t half make choosing a newly qualified post tricky!

So, what’s the answer? What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Unfortunately, as my academic tutor told our tutor group the other day, there is no one correct answer – she chose her first post based on the uniform! She advised starting somewhere general, that you can build up a broad range of skills if you feel unsure about first steps. One of my closest friends said apply for whatever really interests you and don’t worry about moving around – there is no one right direction to move in; who says you can’t go from community to acute! Other advice has been to think about long term goals and what environments might help you to reach those goals or examine your values closely and choose a job that aligns with that.

So, what next for me? What I do know is that working with the most vulnerable groups in society is what really leaves me with a sense of fulfilment and purpose. After providing first aid and healthcare to refugees in Calais I know I want to do more humanitarian work and the jobs that draw me in are those which would provide me with the skills I need to do this. Infectious diseases and tropical medicine, sexual health, general practice and intensive care may all sound quite drastically different, but actually in that context they all tie up quite nicely – maybe I will do one, maybe all, for now I just need to get on with those applications!

To all my fellow nearly qualified nurses – don’t panic, there is no rush to decide your entire future. I have friends and colleagues who want the unknown of A&E, the fast pace of AMU or the control of ICU, those who know community nursing and primary care is where their heart lies, those who need specific hours; choosing based on the practicalities of family life and those who simply want a safe and supportive start or a solid preceptorship. We come from all walks of life, and our career paths will likely take all manner of directions. There is no one right way to be a nurse or commence your career and no one direction to go in. Your choice is valid, and your reasons are valid – focus on doing what is best for you and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.


Rosie Schofield (@SchofieldRosie)

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