Halfway through my course I am looking back and thinking of what I have learnt; about myself, my chosen career of nursing and about the whole university experience. I have no regrets and my passion for nursing remains, as does my love of the learning experience. But, I find myself pondering on some of the negativity I see amongst my fellow students and nurses.
There is no doubt that a nursing degree is no walk in the park, this certainly wasn’t hidden from me when I applied and started my degree. So why then do we insist on making it harder for ourselves? We learn about communication, empathy and encouragement. We develop skills in reading body language, becoming non-judgemental and approaching everyone with compassion. We show this and develop it in practice, we reflect on it and talk about how we have learnt to never judge a book by its’ cover. For those of us engaged in social media we share indignant posts of people judged unfairly or videos of heart-warming stories where people have achieved despite adversity.
Then we get to Uni and we demonstrate the opposite with our fellow students. We get to the wards and we see nurses putting each other down rather than building each other up. We focus on the negative, on what people didn’t do or on what they did that we didn’t like.
We all have bad days and the long days; lack of money and austerity cuts make this degree one that challenges us and pushes us to our very limits on some days. So, why then do we moan about car parking, about someone slamming a door, about how so and so managed a high grade without turning up, about tough markers or late lecturers. We go on placement and hear other students telling of how dreadful their cohort are, or how the university don’t care or are disorganised or have no idea what we are doing.
I came onto a ward that another student, from a different cohort had spent some time on already. She was clearly competent and her patient care and ability to care plan, communicate and nurse was without doubt excellent. But, she complained about university from the minute she got there to the minute she left. The systems were wrong, the essays weren’t challenging enough or written in a way to make you learn, the marks you got were arbitrary, there was no concern for her welfare. She was asked by a Senior Nurse what she had done about it. Her reply – nothing. “Well”, said the nurse, “If you find it so poor shouldn’t you take action?” When she had left the ward at the end of her placement I overheard the same nurse talking “the University seems to have gone downhill, perhaps we should widen our search for NQNs to other universities.” Right there that one student made our degree worth less on that ward and made it that bit harder for us to cement ourselves as professionals.
These things little by little erode us as a profession, they paint us in a negative light and they present us as divided and uncaring. If we are not careful then bit by bit this negativity seeps into even the most positive of people and we start to take that to work with us and then things become too much, and we take it into patient care and maybe into our homes.
But what if there was a different way?
Well there is – every day on twitter I see student and qualified nurses who have never met asking for support with their challenges. Perhaps it is the limitation on characters, perhaps the anonymity of the internet but these never seem to be seen as moans. We can’t pretend there aren’t challenges – there always will be. The students who don’t pull their weight, the lecturers who have become so negative they don’t want to pass on knowledge, the university systems that frustrate and anger you and the little things like car parking and lack of water fountains that make your day a little bit harder. But it is how we talk about them and how we deal with them that matters. And, what I see on twitter are two things – support and solutions. Someone says, “I feel that I have been undermarked, it’s made it hard for me to start the next assignment”. They get back practical suggestions of study support, resources to use, some virtual high fives and a reminder that one essay does not make a degree. Someone else tweets “I am not getting on with my mentor and find myself fading into the background” They get replies giving them ways others have dealt with things, positive phrases to use and practical ways that they can address this with the University.
So, my question is this, why can we support each other, unite and be positive and proactive when we don’t know each other and yet face to face we divide, moan and become negative?
Do two things today to stop this – focus on the positive – if someone moans and you don’t have a practical solution or suggestion or a way to turn their negativity round you’re probably better off saying nothing. Secondly, look at the intentions of others, when you can’t find a parking space did all those that got there before you do it just to annoy you? When the university timetable a day with a four-hour gap – was that really done just to waste your time. Can you turn these things round – park further away and get some exercise, spend some time doing a study skills session, reading in the library or catching up with tea and cake with fellow students to get that chill time we all need.
It is all about perception – how we see ourselves and how others see us – and for me, I want to stand and get that degree and be proud of what I have achieved, know it means something and know everyone else thinks that too. Let’s unite and be positive – then we will be stronger to fight the things that really need fighting.
Written by Clare Manley (@Mannersofmarple)