New grad nurse: ‘Nursing is a tough gig but I wouldn’t do anything else’

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Yesterday new grad Alexa described her path to studying nursing, her elation at getting a new grad position but then the shock, stress and depression when she landed in a toxic ward environment. Read part one of Alexa’s story. Today she continues on to her second rotation.

Alexa writes: Six months passed and I reached my last day. Of course it was a standard hectic day and funnily enough the night staff had forgotten to ensure the morning shift was properly staffed. I happened to be the one who was left with 10 patients on my own until a nurse arrived two hours later! I had a little giggle to myself – it was so fitting that my last day began like this. The team leader didn’t offer to pitch in and nobody offered to help with my morning meds. One of the night nurses (who had become a good friend) decided to stay back after her shift to help me out because she couldn’t believe I’d been left on my own. I could believe it.

I had made a few friends on this ward and was sad to leave them, but I was just so excited to be moving on. My NUM spoke to me on that last day and told me that I had become an ‘amazing, hard-working nurse who would go far’. She said she knew it was a tough time for me and she also said ‘You’re a different person to the girl I met on the first day. You’ve really changed’. My response was ‘I’m actually back to the person I was before coming here’.

I walked out those doors at 4pm and burst into tears. They were tears of pure relief, tears of pride that I did it, tears of exhaustion and tears of joy. It was wonderful.

I am now in my second rotation and as predicted, my new ward is a much better experience. In fact, it’s fantastic. The two wards are polar opposites. I feel overwhelmingly supported and valued. I haven’t felt any tension between staff members. The staff respect each other and actually get along! The team nursing is excellent. The staff help one another, have meal breaks together and even walk out of the ward together after each shift, not leaving anyone behind!

I am so much happier and feel like all the challenges leading up to this were well worth it.

I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason. I believe that each challenge I’ve faced has presented itself so I can grow and learn from it.

How did I get through those six months and how can my story help other new nurses (without scaring them off!)?

These few things are what I believe helped me most:

  1. When I drove to work each day, I would take a moment to myself in my car and would say out loud ‘I am going to be a great nurse today’. Some days it would be hard for me to believe I could do it but I always strived to give my all to my patients. They were who mattered. I decided to be a nurse so I could help people and every day that’s what I intended to do, no matter how difficult the environment.
  1. It was often hard to find the motivation to go to work, so I created a playlist of ‘pump up’ songs to listen to on my way to work. Even at 6am I had the music turned up loud and would use the music to give me much-needed energy and a positive start to the day.
  1. When I saw a psychologist through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), she told me to create a space between work and home – a space where I stop and mentally decide to switch out of work mode. I often did this by doing a guided relaxing meditation and by using my after-work shower to consciously wash the day completely away. Some days this was harder than others but getting into a routine of consciously switching from work to home really helped me.
  1. Speaking of the EAP, utilising this support was just so helpful. Nursing is a tough gig and we need to be supported! There is help out there and there is absolutely no shame in reaching out and admitting you’re not coping.
  1. Most importantly, I decided to be kind to myself. In those earlier months I so wanted to be the best nurse ever and prove to everyone I was a fantastic nurse. It was unrealistic to think I could be of the standard of other nurses who had been in the game for years. It was hard but I finally accepted I would get there and it would take time. I had to be okay with that. I was doing my best and that’s all that mattered. I even used to give myself encouragement. I would say in my head things like ‘Come on, you can do this!’, ‘You’re doing really well, just keep going’, ‘If you get through today, you can get a caramel slice on your way home as a reward!’ It’s helpful to be your own little cheerleader!

Those first few months were gruelling and I often said at the time that it ‘broke me’. I now know that wasn’t true. It absolutely did not break me. It did the opposite. It gave me so much strength and I now feel incredibly empowered.

Even in the midst of shedding all those tears, I still said that I loved being a nurse. And I do. It is the hardest thing I’ve done but I know it is the perfect fit for me. At the end of the day, the challenges have only reinforced my love for nursing. I wouldn’t do anything else.

Previously on Nurse Uncut:

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