As a young girl who grew up watching tv shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Holby City, I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare. For a long time, I had this grand plan of going to medical school and flying off to America to live my best life. When the time came to make our final decision as anxious unknowing 6th year students, I found myself doubting my decision. My friend had picked General Nursing and to be honest, it was something that had never crossed my mind. The more I looked into the profession the more I found myself drawn to the humble service of ours but in a slightly different capacity. That was it, my decision was made and General Nursing in AIT was the first course on my CAO. Had I a clue what nursing truly involved? No. Did I know what I was about to get myself into? That was an even bigger no. But I 100% felt that this was the right path for me.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about being a student nurse is the student part. Training as a nurse is quite a different experience from nearly every other college or university course. Your college year is divided into classroom and clinical experience. Large blocks of the year are spent doing clinical placements in assigned hospitals within a variety of the different nursing disciplines. So, as you can imagine the typical student experience is not something that most student nurses get to experience.
I will never forget putting my uniform on for the first time, a white tunic with yellow bands on the shoulder and a large name badge with our year of study to signal our lack of experience. There is nothing to prepare you for the responsibility and seriousness of nursing. During my first week as a 1st year, I experienced my first patient death. I was hit by a wave of emotions, sadness for the family who had just lost their father, helplessness, and uncertainty as I did not know what to do? What do you say? How do you express empathy while still being professional? Such a whirlwind of emotions for an 18-year-old, am I right?
But I believe it starts with the small gestures, offering the family space, reassuring them to finally preparing the man’s body with dignity and respect. You are thrown into the adult world headfirst, dealing with doctors, senior hospital management, patients’ family members all while learning and improving your clinical and interpersonal skills. The defining moment for me did not come till late into my internship, which is the final 36-week rostered placement that 4th year students complete to reach full qualification. We had assisted an elderly gentleman back from the shower to his armchair at his bedside. Once he was sitting comfortably, we started to make his bed. Not long after I noticed his breathing had changed. I asked him was he ok, but he just stared back at me his eyes piercing with terror and then, he was gone, his heart had stopped. I knew what to do, I was trained for this. I ran immediately and put out the cardiac arrest call and within 30 seconds a team of fellow professional were around him working on him.
As I started my round of compressions, I felt his bones crack, all the energy I had directed down into my hands. We got him back and I will never forget that feeling of knowing that for the 24 hours he lived afterwards that it was spent surrounded by his family. Knowing that it was the training I was given and the skills of our profession that allowed me to act and provide those last moments of joy for that family makes all the hard days as a student nurse so incredibly worth it. I suppose that is what I mean when I say one of the biggest misconceptions about being a student nurse is the student part. Nothing, and I mean nothing can truly prepare you for it. It is crazy to think how this course has developed me from a shy 1st year who even at the time my clinical placement coordinator did not think I would make it to 2nd year, let alone become a confident student intern with a better sense of self and understanding for the people around me.
And while I agree in one sense that nursing is a vocation, a calling as some would say, I believe to talk about it in that sense takes away from it as a trained profession. People sacrifice years of their lives to upskill with some becoming dual-qualified in General Nursing with Midwifery or Psychiatry. We are a profession like any other and should be treated that way.
As for me, I am now five years qualified with three of them working actively as a staff nurse with the best team in Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. I have been involved with local collaboration projects in patient safety and am currently hoping to do my masters in dementia studies in Trinity College this September. Nursing provides a lot of opportunities with the biggest being job security, the wide range of speciality areas and of course the opportunity to travel which is a big plus with younger nurses. Whatever you decide to do you will not regret a career in nursing, at times it can be very difficult and stressful, but your colleagues are there to help you. I passionately believe in putting our own mental and physical health first and it is only then that we can put our best selves into our work.
I want to wish every nursing student, especially the internship students who are only a little over three months left to qualification the absolute best and I hope you find meaning and satisfaction in whatever you do. Also, a happy International Nurses Day to all my colleagues who celebrated recently. You are all stars!