I started working, on a busy, 56 bedded acute medical unit in 2018, where I experienced my first 6 months of being a newly qualified nurse. It was only recently, on a night out with the two girls I met in the induction week, that we collectively realised we had survived 6 months! Surely that means we had done it! Passed the milestone, the peak, the first trial. This prompted me to reflect on my time since qualification and the realisations that came with each month.
6 Months of being a Newly Qualified Nurse
This is serious
This is it. The real deal. You do quite literally hit the ground running. At first the responsibility is CRUSHING. The amount you don’t know stands starkly against the amount you do and it is daunting. You’re shit scared. Do not panic.
This is tiring
The training days are mostly finished, your supernumerary time is over and you’re tired. The realisation that this might be your job for the rest of your life might make you want to cry and your friends cushy desk jobs are eyeing you up. You’ve bitterly missed out on several social events and your friends have got accustomed to the “sorry working :/” text every time they try to make plans. This is when you start to wonder if you can hack it. Your resilience will be tested this month.
This is interesting
Once your body has adjusted to the perpetual tiredness you’ll start to realise that on every single shift your knowledge is expanding exponentially. You almost wish it didn’t just to give your psyche a rest for a day! However, a restful time is not what you signed up for. Instead you get this exhausting, thrilling, draining, life affirming and meaningful slap in the face every day. You might start to notice a gap between you and your peers- people of the same age in different careers as they just can’t conceive what you experience in 12 hours. Things might be looking up. You’re learning quickly and starting to thrive.
This is hilarious
Hey that doctor just remembered your name. There are new starters who ask you questions and you can point them in the right direction. Your work-social life will expand and there will be times where you’re pissing yourself in the treatment room. No one ever said nursing was boring. You will make friends that you can talk to when you need to and you’ll also have some pretty special moments.
This is meaningful
Every time you leave work you’re walking away with more life experience than you had 12 hours ago. You will cherish the special moments and you’ll remember that you have made a difference. “They may forget what you said- but they will never forget how you made them feel.”- attributed to Carl W. Buehner. Whilst this man was a church official from the 30s, it rings true to me in forms such as brightening a poorly patients day or making a difference to someones experience of their last breaths.
As cliche as it sounds, you see people at the height of vulnerability and engage with people from every walk of life. The lessons of wisdom are invaluable, elderly patients have plenty of insights to offer young nurses (avoid marriage at all costs is mentioned often by the ladies) and you are not just unshielded, but engaged daily with raw human emotion, vulnerability, sickness and the unforgiving truth of mortality. Try to take time to reflect on this- factor in some ‘me’ time between all the shifts and look after yourself.
This is it
No ones died yet!…only joking, quite a lot of people have died. Although that very much comes with the territory of being a 6 months newly qualified nurse. In fact, it comes with the territory of being a nurse. The future holds more struggles, your job is a daily challenge but you’re doing it! You have survived 6 months! You are a survivor! This is a career that offers one of the most rewarding human experiences. Your skill set will be atrophied from the hard days, the standard shifts feel somewhat doable! You’ve developed your own routine and you have fully ingratiated into the team. Things feel stable and…good.