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Emma Cowen: Making the transition from student to mentor

Being assigned a student to mentor gives Emma Cowen cause to reflect on how much she has learnt in her first year as a qualified nurse – and how much more there is to know

Being assigned a student to mentor gives Emma Cowen cause to reflect on how much she has learnt in her first year as a qualified nurse - and how much more there is to know.


Picture: iStock

According to the reminder from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) asking me to pay my registration fee, I have been qualified an entire year. This is terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure, much like finishing your first year as a student. You haven't quit (even when you wanted to), you haven't been asked to leave (even when you were convinced you probably should have been), and you feel proud of yourself (as well as completely exhausted). 

It is, however, a double-edged sword. This means that I am expected to know things and can't rely on my status as a newly qualified nurse to explain any gaps in my knowledge. This realisation dawned on me after being assigned my first student to mentor. They will ask me questions, and I will - shock horror - be expected to know them. 

'I'm finding that I often surprise myself with the knowledge and skills I have picked up in one year of nursing'

However, as with going into your second year of training, I'm finding that I often surprise myself with the knowledge and skills I have picked up in one year of nursing. 

Being asked questions and finding you know the answers is a good way of spotting how far you have come, as this can easily be lost in the day-to-day routine of nursing. We are so often task orientated, especially when things are as busy as they have been over the winter. This makes it harder to see the big picture and progress can easily get lost or downplayed in the face of the sometimes-overwhelming magnitude of all the things you don't know. 

Taking pride in small victories

Having a student working with me, asking me questions which sometimes I know the answers to (and sometimes don't), has been a good reminder for me to celebrate the small victories in nursing and take pride in my knowledge. 

Nursing is both a joy and a frustration as there is no limit to how much you can know. I will try to honour my first year of being qualified by making an effort to enjoy the fact that there is still so much to learn, rather than feeling daunted by it, and by being proud of how far I have come. After all, being a short way into a long journey is still progress.


About the author

Emma Cowen is a staff nurse in the children's emergency department, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Brighton 

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