NQN · Reflection · Self care · The StN Project

My promise for 2019? To be more real.

Over the last twelve months of my student nursing career I think it’s fair to say I’ve achieved a fair bit. I started my second year volunteering for an RCN photoshoot for the ‘One of Us’ campaign and it all kinda snowballed from there.

On a local level, at Uni, I flourished in the role of Academic President of Nursing. From encouraging a whole cohort to get involved with #WearingWhite , advocating for my peers when the south coast was covered in snow, standing up and shouting when the Student Loans Company majorly messed up maintenance loans (that’s putting it politely), to helping create a fantastic common space for the students of the School of Health Sciences at University of Southampton. I certainly got stuck in. But, as I have said on many occasions, that wasn’t me alone – it’s always been a team effort, and I think it’s important to shout about our successes in a profession where times are tough. We’re overworked and underpaid to put it bluntly, so it’s really easy to slip into negative thinking. But, by talking about successes and those golden moments, it can help our inner monologue remain shiny and bright even when outside it may be grey and cloudy.

One thing I’m not too good at, however, is telling people when I’m struggling or having a down day. They’re so used to the ‘everything is awesome’ *cue: Lego Movie soundtrack* Jess that they simply don’t know what to do if I turn around and say something remotely negative. I’ve managed to create this public image of myself so positive that I’m worried that if I hit a bump in the road everyone will forget about all of the good things.

But, when I was reading a blog post by #StNProject alumni and my pal Toni (@flamingcopper), I realised that I must make a conscious effort to share the bad times as well as the good from here on out. I’m not quite sure how yet, because I’m concerned about opening the flood gates and completely reversing that positive public image that has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to build. That’s not what I want. But what I do want is to be more real.

The final semester of second year was a real struggle for me, but did I let you know that? Nope. I was so stressed that my hands cracked, and it wasn’t when I was on placement and I could blame it on over washing. When I am stressed, I am really good at kidding even myself that I’m fine. So the way that it manifests is via my skin. Another pretty epic example of this was just after my Nan died; my kids were 5 and under 1 at that point, so of course I had to carry on as normal. But my body needed to let the grief out somehow, and it was, you guessed it, via my skin. It came out in the form of pretty severe urticaria all over my body. Weird how your body can tell you to stop when your brain has done such a good job telling you otherwise, huh?

Being a student nurse is tough. Hey, being a human is tough. Sharing our experiences may help others without us even knowing, so from here on out I will make an effort to be more real with you all. I am not telling you that you should do the same, that is your personal choice. We should all be mindful of others, however. Just because someone only shares their successes, it does not for one second mean that they are not facing their own struggles too. Always be kind.

Written by Jess Sainsbury (@JessLSainsbury)

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