Opinion

Be brave and laugh at yourself, you’ll learn faster

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Two weeks in and I have definitely hit the ground running. The amount of information to cover in the last fortnight means I probably have enough material to write five posts. First, I want to share what I have learned about coping during this period

The most important tip is to be prepared to make mistakes and look ‘foolish’. Not if it puts a patient’s life at risk, in that case definitely ask for help, but not knowing how systems work means you will get things wrong. If you are anything like me:

  • You’ll unknowingly send a patient the wrong way when they ask for directions and get lost yourself.
  • You’ll ring up to refer when you should have faxed a form over.
  • You’ll answer the phone ‘student nurse’ and then quickly say ‘I mean staff nurse’, completely confusing the person at the other end.
  • You’ll get things sent back because you’ve missed information off.
  • You’ll walk in one direction then double back, then do it again because you’ve forgotten where something is (and usually in front of at least five people who all ask you if you’re ok).

But don’t worry. Be brave and laugh at yourself, you’ll learn faster. And remember, everyone was new once too.

The second thing is to introduce yourself to everyone. This may seem obvious, especially with the ‘named nurse’ initiative, but I immediately felt more settled as soon as I knew who people were. It also helps if you feel a little intimated because it makes people much more human. If you can call someone by name when you’re asking for help, it’s much easier.

The third follows on from this: learn where to find knowledge. Most hospitals have an intranet, ward clerks, healthcare assistants and porters who are brimming with knowledge. Get to know the people and the systems so that when you don’t know the information, you’ll know where to find it.

Finally, take care of yourself. It may seem terribly awkward to mention you’re going on your break, or to nip and get a drink, especially if you are among others who have five minutes in a twelve hour shift. If you do take care, you’ll be able to focus more when you’re working, last longer, and have less chance of getting a dreaded urinary tract infection.

And enjoy yourself. We’ve had a hard two or three years to get here. Keep in touch with course mates nearby. My course was small, but we have a support group on a messaging service where we ask the silliest questions, procrastinate using video clips, have mini panics and pass on the latest gossip about our lives!

About the author

Stephanie Wagg recently qualified from the University of Sheffield. She is now a staff nurse on a respiratory ward at a nearby hospital. Her coping mechanisms include sharing her failures and learning with others, writing, and chocolate!