Katie reflects on her Nursing journey so far, with insights into the positives, the challenges and things to consider if you are thinking about a career in Nursing.
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As I look back on my journey through Nursing, I find it hard to fit all the experiences into words.
From the first moment I stepped into my Nursing Student uniform over 10 years ago, I knew the journey ahead would be a lesson in life.
And indeed, it was and continues to be.
A Learning Process
Not only professionally have I learned and grown, but also personally, Nursing, to me, has been a life lesson in humility, compassion, love, and patience, while also demonstrating the sometimes cruel, nasty, and senseless nature of life.
My closest friendships have been formed through the bonds of Nursing.
The friendships you create when your blood, sweat and tears (quite literally) into a 12-hour shift with a team is something very special.
When it is 5:30 am and you are dancing to music before you prepare the morning IVs, you know it's a good friendship.
Throw a pandemic in the mix and I have to say it has been quite an interesting ride!
As many Nurses do when we think back to our early days as a new grad one word comes to mind: naive.
You tell yourself "yes, you got it in your head, the books told you this!"
As I navigated my way through my first year as a Nurse, I thought things would get easier (certainly not expecting a pandemic to be thrown into the mix!)
Three months after graduating, I moved from Ireland to the UK and was prepared for a year of getting some experience in my chosen field of Oncology.
Little did I know I was in for a 6-year adventure.
Navigating the differences in the NHS and the HSE was challenging at first, I often enjoyed seeing how things were different and the ups and downs of each shift.
I met people from all over the world, which was something amazing to me, having come from a small town.
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Oncology is my specialty, and I am so grateful to have met many incredible people down in my career.
I often feel it is a privilege to be able to help someone even in the smallest way when they are at the most difficult part of their life.
Oncology patients are the most inspiring people who have crossed my path.
Each time we get the gift of a patient returning after treatment to tell us they are in remission it is a special moment, the energy on the unit changes.
The goosebumps run down your spine, and you remember why you do this job. But it's not all roses and remission.
In fact, it's dark. It's cruel. It hurts and it's real pain for these patients and families.
I see how dark and lonely life can be.
I often have discussions with my colleagues around this and how we manage these things every day.
The truth is you build a wall, but not all walls are made to last forever.
Being Kind To Yourself
This is why I believe, as Nurses, we need to learn to treat ourselves with kindness.
How many emotions can a person absorb before they cannot absorb any more?
We do learn to put up a bit of a wall, and dark humour allows us to cope.
As I look back, I see how much I have developed as a Nurse and how my confidence in my decisions has skyrocketed.
If there is one thing I learned that we need to work on, it is treating ourselves with kindness.
It is more evident now than ever, as Nurses leave in their droves.
Yes, you do need to eat.
Yes, you do need that water bottle, and yes, you should take that toilet break.
Often in Nursing, the culture of not taking breaks can be evidently passed down through teams which is something I always try to break wherever I work: we must take our breaks.
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The Privilege Of Care
To follow a patient along a journey that will often be their most challenging is a privilege.
I often think that as a Nurse we don't just ‘care’ for the patient, often the most important role of a Nurse is to empower and educate the patient.
Enabling the patient to be best equipped and in control as much as they can is something important.
Often, their lives have been turned upside down when they meet you, humor is another important tool to have in the kit.
To be a leader during the pandemic was also a major life lesson.
In a sense, it felt like entering something with a cover around our eyes.
Each day was something new, adapting out of nowhere to new changes and new policies each and every day.
I am sure a lot of us have lasting effects from that and will go on to have for many years to come.
I also learned how to ask for help. We don't know the answers to everything, nor should we.
That is why teams exist, each member brings their own strengths to the table and can become stronger and united.
Recognising when you need help is something to learn, at least for me it was.
Stresses Of The Role
Many of my colleagues look back on the pandemic with a sense of disbelief.
A close friend of mine is only now experiencing the effects of PTSD after what she witnessed.
Psychologists are regularly seeing Nurses come to them for help from the effects of the pandemic.
After the pandemic, I think that there has been a shift in mentality among many Nurses, many emotions are coming through to the surface which we have buried for quite some time.
Personally, this year I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that makes me dependent on steroids for life.
Being on the other side of the bed has allowed me to deeply reflect on what it is to be healthy.
The experience of being chronically ill has given me a greater understanding of the need for us to slow down.
My journey through Nursing has given me many gifts, through the struggles and highs of caring for people at their most vulnerable.
I always say this; my biggest teachers were not the university lectures, nor the books or the countless assignments.
My biggest inspiration in life is the patients that I crossed paths with.
From being a nervous 18-year-old stepping foot onto a ward for the first time to a 28-year-old sister on a Cancer unit.
The experiences in between shaped me both professionally and personally in ways I have yet to appreciate.