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  • 22 January 2019
  • 18 min read

Newly qualified nursing experiences

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

Chloe is a newly qualified RMN. In her YouTube video, she shares the experiences she's had since qualifying!

Play video: Chloe shares her experiences as a newly qualified RMN.

Hello guys and welcome back to my channel!

My name is Chloe if you are new here, and if you are I would love you to hit that bright red subscribe button down below and of course if you enjoyed the video don't forget to give it a big thumbs up.

So today I have got for you another video in collaboration with Nurses.co.uk, all their information is linked down below but essentially they are a careers website built for nurses, by nurses.

They also have a blog with loads of fab resources on it, even if you're not at the stage of your training where you're looking for a job or if you're a student nurse, I definitely recommend checking out their blog because there's loads of fab resources on that.

So today I thought I'd do a bit of kind of like a story time video essentially because I want to talk to you guys about my experience of being a newly qualified nurse.

For anyone who's new around here, I graduated as a mental health nurse this summer and I started my job on September 17th so I've been working as a qualified nurse for nearly three months now which is just mad.

I actually could not believe how quickly that time has gone.

I genuinely feel like I only started last week and let me tell you that first day on the ward I absolutely terrified, like I don't even think the word terrified covers it!

I don't think I've ever been that afraid in my life.

The transition from student to qualified was... weird

It was such a weird experience to go into reception and be like ‘oh hi I'm Chloe I'm the new staff nurse’ and then again you know you walk onto the ward and people are introducing you as a staff nurse.

I actually had to stop myself because on a couple of occasions I would be like ‘oh hi I'm Chloe I'm the new student nurse’ and I'd have to stop myself and be like’ no Chloe, you’re not a student anymore you've qualified, this is your job’!

When I spoke to some of the other nurses on the ward they said they did the exact same thing, that they kept accidentally introducing themselves as a student nurse and then they'd be like ‘oh wait no I'm not’.

Or sometimes when people ring like Pharmacy does, every time Pharmacy rings they ask ‘am i speaking to a nurse?’ and the amount of times I've had to stop myself being like ‘nope I'm a student nurse but can I help’ and actually being like ‘yes, yes I am a nurse’!

It's just a really weird thing because for three years you've been telling everyone you're a student nurse, you've been introducing yourself as a student nurse and you are kind of used to what you're allowed and not allowed to do as a student. So to suddenly have this entirely new role, a new title, new things that I'm allowed to do... it was just it was a really really weird experience.

I'm learning more now than when I was a student

I very much felt like I knew how to be a student nurse but I didn't really know if I knew how to be a nurse and to be honest with you I feel like I've learned more in these last three months than I did my entire three years of training.

But the best bit is employers expect that.

My friends, my colleagues, people that I've spoken to about, it they've all said the same that when you start as a newly qualified nurse people kind of expect you to know nothing and anything you do know is a bonus rather than them being like ‘oh great you're a new nurse off you go get to it’.

The reality is a lot of people might go into jobs but they've never actually had a placement in that area so though you can kind of do a lot of research you're not really gonna know how that area works until you get there.

In my case I trained in London and then I moved up here to Manchester so even though I knew how my trust works I was now coming into a completely different trust where you know procedures are different and who you call to deal with certain situations is different.

So for me the biggest relief was that my employers didn't expect anything of me and every time people went to do something within my first few weeks of being there people were like ‘have you ever done this before’ ‘do you want to come and watch me’ .

For those first couple of weeks we’re kind of still very much felt like a student because people were you know showing me how to do things, double-checking I understood something before allowing me to go up and do it on my own, which actually was a massive relief for me because it was my biggest fear that I was gonna walk onto a ward on my first day and they were gonna be like ‘oh you're a nurse, here's the meds, keys, go do morning meds’.

So actually the relief I felt to know that you know people kind of expect that as a newly qualified nurse, you're not gonna know everything because you know you could be qualified 20 years and still not know everything.

You could have worked in one place for five years but then go and start somewhere else and you're still gonna need a little bit of support to work out how that ward works, how that trust works, how certain things are done in that environment.

So for me as a newly qualified nurse I've actually felt really supported.

Unfortunately that isn't gonna be everyone's experience.

Some wards are gonna be better than others.

Generally I'd say that I felt really supported and actually even now after three months situations are still coming up where it's like ‘who do I ring’ things like and nobody's judging me because I don't know everything.

Play video: here are Chloe's top tips on how to survive night shifts.

Dealing with difficult situations

One of the downsides I'd say to being a qualified nurse is that sometimes you're gonna come across situations that you really don't want to have to deal with.

When you're a student you can kind of play the student card and be like ‘well I'm a student let me go and get you a qualified nurse’ but now I'm the one that people go and get when they need a qualified nurse.

I can't now back away from the scary things or the things that are difficult to deal with.

The first example of this was the first time I had to ring a patient's family member and tell them something that I knew was gonna be quite a difficult conversation.

It was on my list the jobs that I've been handed over that morning and I was like ‘right, this needs to be done now’ and I found myself kind of looking around like where's the nurse to do this and it was like ‘okay I'm that nurse. I need to make this difficult phone call, there's nobody I can give this to and you know play my student card I have got to deal with this really difficult situation myself’.

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You don't get shown EVERYTHING as a student

There's also so many things that as a student you don't even realise that nurses have done and people just don't even think to tell you what they're doing, and then suddenly I'm expected to do those things that I didn't know were a thing until I had to do them.

A good example of this is Mental Health Act papers.

So as mental health nurses we are expected to check and accept Mental Health Act papers and obviously these are legal documents.

When you're a student, nurses might show you things but it's very different between having someone go ‘oh this is what I'm doing’ and you were actually going ‘right this is my thing, I have to fill in this paperwork, I have to sign my name to this, I have to check that these are correct to make sure that we're not doing anything illegal here by detaining this patient’.

There's just so many of these little tiny things that when I was in placement the nurses just did and they didn't tell me and now I've got to do these things.

Helping students that were like me

One thing I have absolutely loved about being a qualified nurse though is I think my own students.

So obviously at this point because I'm so newly qualified I'm not gonna be anyone's mentor or anything like that but if you are a student nurse you'll know that just because somebody's your mentor doesn't mean they're the only one that teaches you anything.

All the nurses on the ward will kind of work together to you teach you things while you're there so for example, when I've been doing medication I've been doing it with a student kind of thing and it's just speaking to them and having them ask me questions and me know the answer to it.

It has actually been a massive confidence boost because I think when you're a newly qualified nurse you can kind of get into this mentality of 'I'm newly qualified, I don't know anything.'

I was working with the first student the other day.

When I was doing meds with her, she really didn't know anything and she was asking me all these questions and I could answer all of her questions.

That was such a massive confidence boost to be like actually I think I don't know anything but I do, those three years of training weren't for nothing.

Play video: find out what challenges Chloe faces as a newly qualified RMN.

Meetings are intimidating!!

Something I found a lot more intimidating since being a nurse is kind of like meetings and Ward reviews and patient reviews and things like that.

Even though I've done those as a student it's very different when you go into a meeting and people turn to you and go ‘Chloe what's your opinion’ and I've just sat there like, I have an opinion but I don't know if I want to share it with you and I'm scared that it's gonna be the wrong opinion and you're gonna disagree with me!

And to actually sit there in a meeting and be like, no I am a qualified nurse I am a health practitioner in my own right and I have an opinion and even if you don't agree with it I'm gonna share it with you, it's a really scary thing to do.

Preceptorships are so worth it

Something that I've recently started on is my preceptorship and I only recently found out that not everywhere has this and some places have it but they call it something different.

So if you don't know what it is essentially preceptorship is kind of this period when you're a newly qualified nurse and basically it's kind of designed to give you more support.

It's kind of similar to being a student in the sense that you've got like a list of competencies which you need to get someone, i.e a more senior nurse, to sign off.

But it's not designed to test you, they know that you already know these things they just want to make sure that if there's any areas that you aren't as confident with.

This can be kind of picked up and they can help you with it straight away so you don't get to the point where you know you're two years down the line and you still don't know how to do quite basic things.

So although at first when I was looking through this paperwork I was a bit like, why am I doing this,  I'm a qualified nurse of course I can do these things, actually I found it really nice to sit down with a more senior nurse once a month have a chat with her about how things are going, talk about what I've done that maybe I hadn’t done before or things that I'd done previously as a student but I'm now doing them as a nurse.

It's actually really nice to have that extra support and have it written down on paper like I know these things and I can do these things.

So that's something I would suggest if you are a student that is either about to start looking for a job or is already looking for a job.

At the job interview stage they're bound to ask you if you have any questions, so ask them about their preceptorship program or what support they have for newly qualified nurses.

Even though I felt fairly confident as a newly qualified nurse, having this extra support in place has been so helpful and it's also kind of a period of protection if you like because they are recognising the fact that you are a newly qualified nurse and therefore you might not be able to do some of the things that more experienced staff will be able to do.

So in the case of my trust, sometimes if another ward is really short-staffed they might pinch staff from other wards to support them.

I think this is fairly common and it doesn't happen all the time but obviously if another ward has got no nurse and on my ward we've got two nurses then the obvious answer is to take one of our nurses and give it to this other ward so that at least they have one nurse.

Being considered a preceptor nurse it means that that can't happen to me, I can't be taken and put on another ward because I'm still learning how to be a nurse on my ward.

To go and dump me on a ward that I don't know with patients that I don't know be really challenging whereas somebody who's obviously got more experience it's hopefully gonna find that a little bit easier.

So not only is the preceptorship period a great time to kind of double-check that you know everything you need to know.

It also means that you're kind of a little bit protected and you know you're not going to be thrown into a situation that you don't feel comfortable with.

Being in charge and making the final decision...

Another thing that I found really weird about being a newly qualified nurse is being nurse in charge.

So again this is something I've done it so so much as a student but it's a very different situation when you are the nurse in charge and you aren't just being the nurse in charge with an actual nurse there to back you up kind of thing.

I'm the one making the decisions; is that patient safe enough to go and leave?; how are we going to manage the fact that we're short-staffed when we've got X Y and Z that needs to be done?; you know all these kind of things that I did as a student but I always knew that I had that nurse there to kind of support me and back me up.

Don't get me wrong as a qualified nurse you still have support because I would never make a decision without discussing it with maybe the doctors or the support workers on shift.

Depending on the situation you're always gonna have someone to bounce ideas off of and to discuss it with but the scary thing now is that level of responsibility.

So even if it's a really small decision that I just want to maybe double-check with one of the support workers on the ward what their opinion is, even though I've still have that space to reflect with someone else at the end of the day that decision is gonna come down to me and if something bad were to happen I will be the one answering for my actions because I am the qualified staff so that's what I found really really scary.

It's level of responsibility and accountability that I now have and it's funny because you still have responsibility and accountability as a student but it is so different as a qualified nurse and I'd like to think that I'm always going to be doing the right thing but that isn't the case.

We are human, we make mistakes and we are working with humans who are unpredictable so I could make a decision with the best evidence to back it up that this is the right decision to make but people are unpredictable and they might do something that we didn't expect.

I think I've just been trying to get into that mentality of I don't need to make the right decision every single time because that's impossible for me, it's about making decisions that I cannot back up with evidence and that I would be able to explain and justify should something go wrong.

Yes, that went wrong but this is the reason I made the decision, this is the evidence I've got to back it up and this is why I came to that conclusion.

I find myself doing that when I'm making decisions even if they're tiny tiny decisions like you know to give someone a PRN medication or to allow someone to go out and leave little, tiny things but I find myself going ‘right if this goes wrong why am I doing this, what evidence did I have to support this decision’.

These kind of things going through my head like lightning speed!

Play video: Chloe explains why she loves being a nurse.

Looking forward

I could ramble on for ages because essentially I have loved being newly qualified nurse.

I have loved my job, I have felt really supported and I have really enjoyed my experience so far over the last three months and I'm really looking forward to what's coming ahead in the future.

One thing that I'm actually looking into doing is potentially starting a master's next year in September 2019, maybe starting a master's part-time on top of working.

I'm also really keen to do like my mentorship training so that I can actually have a student that it's kind of like mine - that's a weird way of phrasing it but you know it would be like a student is my responsibility.

I'd love to maybe get some experience on other wards because I said at the moment I've only worked on my ward but I think when I'm feeling a little bit more comfortable and a bit more confident in myself I would love the opportunity to go and work on some other wards, kind of develop my knowledge in other fields of mental health nursing and working with different client groups.

Alright guys I hope you found this interesting, listening to my experience of being a newly qualified nurse.

I'm definitely gonna make an update video at some point maybe in a year after I've been qualified.

I think that would be quite interesting to kind of listen to this video back and then make another one in kind of a year's time and look at the differences between now and then.

Don't forget to give the video a big thumbs up if you did enjoy it and of course hit subscribe because I produce nursing videos at least once a month, if not more and let me know at what stage of your nursing journey you're at.

Are you looking at applying to do nursing and you're just thinking really far ahead? Are you already a student nurse? Are you a qualified nurse?

Let me know I would love to have a chat with you guys in the comments down below and I will see you again next time! 

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About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.

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