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  • 03 March 2019
  • 17 min read

What I wish I knew before nursing

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

Now a fully qualified RMN, Chloe tells us what she wishes she knew before training and qualifying as a mental health nurse.

Play video: Chloe talks about what she wishes she knew before nursing!

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 enjoy the video don’t forget to give it a big thumbs up.

So today I have got for you another nursing video and as always it is sponsored by the lovely people over at Nurses.co.uk.

If you haven't watched any of my nursing videos before, they are a careers website built for nurses, by nurses and on top of that they have loads of great resources on their blog aimed at both qualified nurses and student nurses.

Even if you aren't at the stage of looking for a job yet I would definitely recommend you check out all the other resources they've got both on their website and their social media so I will leave all of that linked down below as always.

The final thing I want to mention before I jump into this month's video is the next month's nursing video is gonna be a Q&A, because I get so many questions from you guys about all different kinds of things so I thought it would be helpful to do a Q&A.

I have already done a Q&A so if you want to check that out I will link that here, but if you've got any new questions you want to ask make sure you leave them in the comments down below, or you can tweet me, DM me on Twitter or Instagram however you want to get in touch drop me a message with your question and I will try to include as many as I possibly can in the Q&A; next month.

But in this month's video we're gonna be talking about the things I wish I knew before I got into nursing, and this is both before I became a qualified nurse and kind of before I got into nursing full-stop, you know as a student nurse as well.

Anyone who is new around here I am a mental health nurse I just qualified in August of 2018 and I went into nursing straight out of school.

So I finished my A-Levels and went straight into university to train to be a mental health nurse so I think for me, and I imagine a lot of other people who didn't have any caring experience prior to this, you’re probably gonna be in the same boat we're in.

I didn't really know what to expect to be honest with you because my only knowledge of Nursing and Health Care came from what I read in the news which is often not the reality as well TV programs and movies which again, let me tell you are nothing like real life.

Looking back there's a lot of things that I wish I'd known sooner that I thought I'd share with you guys because I'm curious if any of you watching this are already nurses, are already student nurses felt some of the same things.

I think one of the key features of my nursing videos is this whole kind of you're not alone thing, so that's one of my favourite things about making these videos as I love hearing your guys experiences in the comments because then I realise it's not just me.

Play video: Chloe answers your questions about being a student mental health nurse in this Q&A!

Bravery

The first thing that I feel like I learned very very quickly into nursing is how brave you have to be, to be a nurse.

There have been so many times within my short career as a qualified nurse as well as my times as a student nurse when I've had to challenge people and that is you know it's a scary thing to do.

You've got to be quite brave to do that and this can be all kinds of things.

This can be you know challenging a consultant because you disagree with the decision they've made - this actually happened to me in my first ever placement.

So there was me, bright-eyed bushy-tailed, thrown into my first ever placement; I was working in dementia care and about three weeks in there was something wrong with one of our patients and I just knew there was something wrong so the nurses escalated that to the consultant.

The consultant had a quick chat with her and said no, she's fine there's nothing wrong and the nurses on the ward were just like, oh okay well you know the consultant said she's fine so okay then but I just knew something was wrong and I argued and argued and argued and no one was listening to me.

I eventually went and found the manager and actually said no I'm not happy with this can you come and deal with this, the manager agreed with me that something was really wrong and sent her in a blue light ambulance to the General Hospital and it turned out she'd had a stroke.

I was absolutely terrified telling these nurses that have been doing their RMN job for decades, telling this consultant who was like oh nothing is wrong, you know I was challenging these people and telling them that I, this first-year student nurse had only been on the ward for three week, thought they were wrong and it was a really scary thing to do.

But if I hadn't have done that it doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened.

Sometimes you have to challenge people's perspective.

I know some of my classmates when we were studying witnessed staff speaking in an incredibly racist way so they had to challenge them and say actually it's not okay to be saying the things that you're saying.

Unfortunately some mental health professionals that still have a lot of stigma to it towards certain patients and they will talk openly about that and I know some of my colleagues have had to actually stand up and say no, this is not okay you should not be talking like that.

You even sometimes have to do this with patients and their families.

One of my patients has almost doubled in weight in less than a year and he was about to come out on leave with his Nan so I just sort of had a quick chat with the two of them before they went out.

I said 'be really conscious about the food choices you're making whilst you're out on leave' and both he and his Nan got you know really defensive saying it's the medication it's his metabolism etc, but actually I had to stand my ground and say yes those might be a contributing factor but actually the food that you're buying him and the food that you are putting into your body is also a major factor.

That's really scary because people often don't respond very well to having their opinions and their beliefs challenged but actually as a nurse it's a really really important skill and it is expected of us under the NMC guidelines to be able to stand up for what we think is right, to make sure that we get the best outcomes for our patients.

So I think bravery is something that I didn't expect that I would need as a nurse but I've now realised that it's definitely one of the most important qualities.

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

You get emotionally attached to patients

Another thing I think I underestimated is how emotionally attached you are gonna get to patients.

I chat with quite a few of my subscribers on Twitter and Instagram regularly and they tell me the same things, that they knew they were gonna have sort of some emotional attachment to some patients but they were surprised at how much it was and for how many people it was.

I just think that's the kind of people we are.

I think you become a nurse because you're an incredibly caring, empathetic person so if you didn't care for your patients I would be quite worried.

I've spoken a little bit about this in previous videos and I've had some quite nasty comments of people that have clearly been in this field for a long time telling me that I would never last and I was too sensitive and that I seemed too weak to be a good mental health nurse and I just think that's rubbish.

I think if you find yourself feeling the same way use it as a strength.

The fact that we care so much for our patients is a strength in my opinion, not a weakness.

If it's getting to the point where you can't sleep at night because you're worrying so much that's a different thing but I think generally really really caring for your patients is a great quality to have and will make you a great nurse.

But it can be mentally exhausting and I think I didn't realise.

I've never worked in a job before where I'm still thinking about it even after my shift and you know I've had quite a few sort of part-time jobs while I was going through school and I never once thought about my place of work out after I'd finish work until I went into nursing.

A good example of this is, I think it was about two weeks ago now one of my pretty high-risk patient went AWOL whilst on escorted leave and by the time I'd gone home she still wasn't back and we still didn't know where she was, and I found myself worrying about her all that evening.

I even ended up messaging the nurse that was on the night shift just to be like, ‘hey did so-and-so get back to the ward okay’ because I was just so concerned about her.

At the start of my mental health nurse career a lot of people told me oh you get used to that and it doesn't bother you as much when you've been doing it for a long time, but actually in my opinion if I ever get to the point where a very high-risk patient is in a risky situation and I don't even bat an eyelid at it, then I think that's the time that I need to leave nursing.

I think it's the wrong mentality to get into.

Yes I'm gonna become more comfortable with my decision-making and I'm gonna worry less about the decisions that I'm making but actually, if I ever get to the point where I don't care what happens to a patient then that's the end of Nursing for me in my opinion.

But you will meet nurses that tell you that you need to grow out of it and you'll learn not to do that which for me is just a bit of a weird mindset.

Read Ben Farrah's blog post on how mental health nurses face increasing emotional pressures, to see how else the role can affect the emotions of RMNs.

Play video: Chloe shares her advice about being on placement.

Recovery isn’t an easy process

I think I also kind of misunderstood recovery before I got into nursing and I think this is particularly relevant to mental health nursing but can also apply to kind of other branches of Nursing in the sense that I thought that recovery was quite linear.

I expected that people might have setbacks but I kind of thought the trend would always be sort of you know onwards and upwards and I just kind of assumed that everyone would want to get better and think one of the hardest things I had to come to terms with is not everyone's going to get better.

Not everyone wants to get better and actually not everyone wants the kind of lives that we as professionals think they should have.

I think this is definitely something that I was aware of as a student nurse but I've become more and more aware of it as a qualified nurse, because obviously I've been in the same place for a lot longer this time.

My longest placement as a student was kind of three months and I've now been in my job for four, coming up to five months so I've seen patient journeys across a much wider range of time.

As I've already said I think most people get into nursing because they really care for people so it can be difficult when you see that some people aren't getting better or they're making choices which you deem to be poor choices which results in them just taking five steps back rather than the step forward you wanted them to take.

I think eventually you get to the point of understanding that it is not your job to make people better it is your job to care for them the best you can and give them all the resources they could need to help them get better and if they don't get better then that isn't because you failed and that isn't because they've failed, that's just what happens sometimes.

Actually in my experience the vast majority of people do get better and even if they aren't able to live their lives in the way that you would want to live your life, their life is better enough they can have some kind of Independence and some kind of autonomy and actually seeing people get better is an incredible thing.

But you've just got to be mindful that that isn't gonna be everyone's experience and that doesn't mean that you as a nurse have failed.

Play video: Chloe gives advice on how to get into nursing school!

Making decisions is scary!

Another thing that I think I didn't anticipate was this kind of fear you feel when you make decisions, particularly as a newly qualified nurse.

It's always like when something goes wrong and you're like, right I need to get an adult to sort this, and you look around and realise that you are the adult! I very much feel like that sometimes as a nurse I'm like looking around for another nurse to like make this decision, and it's like, no Chloe you are the nurse in charge this is your decision.

I think as a student I got this impression that all the nurses around me were just super confident and they knew exactly what they were doing and that's how they were able to make these decisions.

I actually spoke to one of the students on my ward about this quite recently and said to her how nervous I still got when I was making decisions or when I was disagreeing with a doctor, you know that kind of thing and she actually turned round to me and said that she was really surprised that I got that nervous making decisions because her impression was that I was quite cool and calm, particularly during difficult situations or when trying to make a difficult decision.

I just found that really interesting that from her point of view she saw me how I saw the nurses when I was a student and then it kind of made me think actually maybe they were really doubting themselves, so maybe they were worried and felt like they were doing everything wrong but I just wasn't able to see that.

So I think a really good thing to remember when you're a student is even if you feel like you're flapping and you don't know what you're doing and you're doing everything wrong, an outsider might think that you look cool calm and collected.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that I'm a swan!!

You see swans serenely gliding along the water but you know in actual fact they're like paddling like this underneath - that is how I think of myself in a serious instance, that I've just got to convince everyone I'm a swan.

It doesn't matter if I'm paddling like crazy underneath I just need to let everyone think that I'm a swan and that'll help the rest of my team kind of keep it together and make sure that we handle this difficult decision or this difficult situation the best we can.

I think the really important thing to remember here is that there's no such thing as the right decision, you know humans are unpredictable and you could make a decision that you are absolutely confident it's the right thing to do and then something will go wrong and then you can make another decision that you're a bit like oh I don't know how I feel about this and then everything's fine.

Humans are unpredictable so you really just don't know, all you can do is make the best evidence-based decision that you can.

Sometimes you're gonna have to take risks in the hope of a positive outcome but if there isn't a positive outcome it doesn't mean you make the wrong decision that just happens sometimes.

So I think the best advice I can give you is don't think you have to make perfect decisions all the time, you just need to know why you've made that decision, what evidence you've got to back up that decision and be able to justify i should you need to.

How much I love nursing

The final thing that I wish I'd known before I got into nursing is how much I was gonna love my mental health nurse job.

Don't get me wrong but when my alarm goes off at 5:30am on a cold, wet, wintery morning sometimes don't want to get out of bed, but generally I love going to work.

I love my job and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to say that for a lot of people out there they do their job because it pays their bills and because it's a job available to them but I do mine because I genuinely love it.

During a lot of my placements as a student, quite frankly I was miserable and I think that's a combination of working in areas that I didn't particularly want to work in, I sometimes had quite bad mentors and on top of placement I was juggling having to do bank shifts to pay my rent and essays and deadlines and all things like that.

So quite frankly during some of my placements I was miserable and I was so worried that I was gonna hate my job.

I remember the week before I started my job I was petrified because I was just so afraid that I was gonna walk onto that ward and I was gonna hate it and that I’d wasted three years of my life training to do a job that I didn't want to do but thankfully that wasn't the case.

I absolutely love my job, I love my patients I'm very proud to call myself a nurse and I love what being a nurse stands for.

I really wish that was something I'd known before I got into nursing because I think it would have made my training a lot less difficult, because I would have known that I was gonna love my job at the end, like I was pretty sure and I would but there were definitely days when I was like, if this was my job I would have quit by now.

There were definitely days on placement when I was like if this was my job I would have quit by now but thankfully that hasn't been my experience as a qualified nurse.

I just feel very lucky to be a nurse and to call myself a nurse and to love my job.

See Claire's video on her favourite nursing experiences to gain an insight as to what makes our nursing jobs so worthwhile!

Quite frankly I could ramble on for hours but I think that is all I'm going to talk about in this video.

As I said please do share your experiences with me down in the comments, I love to have a chat with you guys.

Leave me a question for the Q&A that's coming next month! Don't forget to give the video a thumbs up and hit subscribe, and of course check out Nurses.co.uk 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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