Peer support, it’s not a completely new idea. The concept of creating a safe environment, be it physical or virtual, where people feel able to share their feelings and experiences. The very act of being around, or reaching out to people who have shared similar experiences is in itself healing and can lead to empowerment.
How often are we told by people who have gone before us how hard the next part of our journey will be? How many times have you asked how they’re finding it and been answered with a huge sigh, along with the obligatory eye roll, and words such as “don’t even ask” or worse, sometimes without provocation, you’ve been told “just wait until you get to second year”. Don’t get me wrong – the second-year blues are something that many students experience, without a doubt. I’ll admit, there may have been the occasional tired strop, and I wouldn’t deny the odd passing urge to throw my laptop out of a window when it so rudely didn’t know the exact word I was trying to write.
Whether it’s the step up academically, or the increase in workload, or the reliance on your yet-to-be-perfected time management skills, nobody would deny the fact that it’s hard. However, it is not unachievable. Look back now to a time you thought difficult and really give it some thought. Was it as bad as the apocalyptic catastrophe which had been relayed to you? Now use those same time-travelling thoughts and imagine how much better you’d have felt if you instead heard – “You know what I found difficult? This… but this is what I found helpful to get through it.” or “Have you tried …. for support, they really helped us.” and “If you’ve tried A and B, message me and we’ll see what we can do.”, or even “Yeah, I found that hard too, but I can tell you the positive things I gained from it”. And I bet you can. New found confidence to speak in front of people? It makes handovers and SBARS seem less daunting. The ability to keep working under pressure? It makes prioritising care in any busy environment achievable. Gaining critical thinking skills that you didn’t know existed? Questioning the evidence behind new and old tasks?
The most amazing nurses, and nurse lecturers, are those who actively seek to work with you. The nurse who enjoys sharing tips and advice, who tests you on new topics, who reassures you that you’ll get there. Those nurses out on placement or in university who take time out to offer words of encouragement. Those that acknowledge it is hard, but acknowledge without judgement – instead, they listen and support. They remember how they felt, and you’re acutely aware that they have been where you are.
And if you turn around, there are people looking at you who have yet to stand in your place.
Written by Kayte Powell, a third year Adult Nursing Student at Bangor University (@Kayte83 on Twitter)