Despite achieving good grades, both academically and while on placement, throughout my nursing education, I entered my third year with a sudden sense of anxiety and a crisis of confidence. It seemed to creep up on me when I wasn’t paying attention, taking me completely by surprise.
Now, I love nursing; but it all suddenly seemed very real and to be happening too fast. I became acutely aware of the loudly ticking clock, counting down that time till I would be… Staff Nurse Davidson.
It’s a scary thought, getting ready to fly the nest of university and cast off your downy student nurse feathers. No matter how well you are doing on placement, you always know you are able to turn to your mentor or another member of staff when you don’t know what you’re doing. Or even if you do, you can still run your thought process and decisions by someone else who has ultimate responsibility. Would I be ready to be held accountable for a patient’s care in 12 very short months? I had always been so confident before, but now I wasn’t so sure.
I am now well into my third year and on my penultimate placement, I am pleased to report my confidence is coming back, which is a huge relief, I’m not going to lie. The reason? Because everything is finally beginning to click into place; my confidence is coming from an increased feeling of competence. I feel competent in my abilities as a nursing student and future nurse, both in my clinical knowledge and understanding and in my therapeutic relationship building with patients and their families. Being able to tangibly link theory to practice is making me feel like I am ready to be a nurse. For those of you who are facing a confidence crisis – I know I’m not alone – I can promise you, it will get better.
My earlier fears are dissipating because I have accepted, I am never going to know everything before graduating, and that is okay. You don’t need to know everything. Nursing is a continual life-long learning process. That is how we make sure we are always following and applying the best, most current evidence. Also, I have realised that as a newly qualified nurse, there will always be a more experienced nurse or member of the wider multidisciplinary team who I can turn to if I am unsure of something, or need to check if what I’m doing is right. I am not expected to know it all. In fact, it would be dangerous to assume I did. Nursing is a team sport, another reason why I love it so much. We will always have someone to turn to.
My advice to you while on your final year placements is to remember you are still learning but stretch your wings ready to take flight. Under the supervision of your mentor, start to manage your own caseload of patients. While this may sound daunting, it is the best way to learn. Time management is vital; you need to be able to prioritise care and keep on top of your observations, documentation, referrals, admissions and discharges etc. It is incredible how quickly time can run away from you. I always keep a notepad and a checklist, which helps me to manage what I’m doing.
Also, it may seem scary, but take part in ward rounds and multidisciplinary team meetings. You don’t want the first time you do this to be as a newly qualified nurse, and the longer you put this off, the scarier it seems. But in reality, there is nothing to be scared of. I have learnt so much by taking part in these opportunities and asking the consultants and junior doctors to explain things to me. Also, during these encounters, patients can sometimes seem intimidated and not raise issues or concerns they have previously highlighted with you; this is your time to act as an advocate, which is my favourite part of being a nurse. So, shake off your student nurse feathers.
Trust your instinct, use your initiative, but be able to give a rationale for why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you don’t know, then ask, or research the answer for yourself. Quite often in doing so, you find out something you can share with the wider nursing team.
You can do this; you are so close to the end of your student nurse journey and at the beginning of an exciting new step. You have worked hard to get here. So, let’s be brave and jump out of the nest together.
I wish you a very safe flight.
Written by Craig (@CraigDavidson85)