NQN · Reflection · Self care

My first supernumerary weeks…

When we got the email asking us to pick a start date, I decided to take a whole two months off after qualifying. At first, I felt guilty for taking such a long break. But I have to say, I definitely don’t regret it. Taking that time to relax, reflect and revise notes from placement was definitely what I needed after such an intense two year course.

There had been such a huge build up to this point. It’s been three years in the making. I’ve gone from a work experience student, to a volunteer, to a HCA, to a student nurse… and now finally an NQN. I’d be lying if I said I slept well the night before my first day of induction! The anticipation was honestly more than I’d ever experienced before.

The first week was 5 days of intensive induction: corporate induction; nursing induction; mandatory moving and handling; and finally, a whole day dedicated to the preceptorship programme. At first, 5 full days seemed like overkill to me. But, not only did it provide several useful reminders of the everyday running of the hospital but also gave us all a chance to network with other NQN’s. The preceptorship team in particular gave us a comprehensive list of things to ask for and complete within the first week – they equipped us to approach our managers and PDN’s in the most efficient and well-informed way.

(Just as a side note: not every hospital does your induction all in one go like this. One of my friends is an NQN in Brighton, and her induction days are spread out over her first few weeks. It’s worth checking to see how your Trust normally structures your first month or so.)

One of the best tips we were given in that first week was to set clear, realistic and time-specific goals. This definitely helped me battle the daunting feeling of my career as a nurse stretching out in front of me.

I have a list of specific goals for my first month: completing my drug test, having a meeting with my preceptor, doing my EPR training. But my main goal during this first fortnight was to build my confidence back up. Despite doing a fair amount of reading, research and revision I was still concerned the hospital would feel unfamiliar and foreign. I kept reciting my mantra:

Don’t punish yourself for what you don’t know. Congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come.

And it was this mantra that carried me through the following week, during which my ward manager sent me around the hospital to spend time with staff throughout the haematology department. I spent a day with the bed manager, a day with CNS, and best of all a day with the ANP (acute nurse practitioner) – a new role they’ve established in Haematology. The ANP was a patient and attentive teacher, and spending the day with her practising skills and using knowledge after a two-month break was exactly what I needed to boost my confidence.

What I’ve learned from this part of my supernumerary time is that you really can get a lot out of it. This isn’t just killing time until you’re in the numbers. It’s not just for ticking off an orientation list. Make the most of this time to become familiar with clinical setting again. Meet and work with your colleagues, learn about the department and practise clinical skills. Get comfortable and build your confidence. This is the time to physically and mentally acclimatise.

It’s also a powerful reminder that in this job you are never alone. You are always part of a team – a team that is aware of your competency and gives you the space you need to learn safely and progress. That team may become strained and the workload may be tough. But there is always a colleague you can turn to. After all, that’s the reason the preceptorship programme was created. I feel so lucky to be entering a job where my manager is genuinely concerned for my wellbeing, and I will always be part of a team dedicated to supporting each other as well as their patients.

The next section of my supernumerary period will be doing long days on the ward itself. The previous fortnight has definitely put me in a calmer and more confident place than I was the night before induction! It has prepared and grounded me. It’s given me a realistic and constructive view of what the next few months as an NQN will feel like. It will definitely be a challenge, but I feel equipped with knowledge and support. I feel genuinely excited to put the uniform on and get stuck in.


Written by Lily Parham (@Lily_Parham)

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