coping, fears and anxiety, needlestick injury, nursing

Being human.

During a distinctly busy period at work, unforeseen circumstances lead to a heavier appointment list. While attempting to see a patient within their allocated slot, I punctured my finger with a used needle. As the injury was sustained from a high-risk source, I spent the last three months in limbo feeling both scared and ashamed. Although my colleagues were supportive, I feared it might reflect badly on my competence. I dreaded having to recount the story to others and worried constantly about what they thought. Surprisingly, a number of people shared their own experiences and I began to feel less alone. Since receiving my blood results, I feel prepared to reflect on the incident and hope it will help reduce the stigma associated with needlestick injuries.

At the time of the injury, I believed I was working efficiently. I now recognise that my perceived ‘efficiency’ jeopardised my safety. Immediately afterwards, I criticised myself for enabling this after 9 years in healthcare. It was a few weeks before I felt prepared to rationalise. The incident now serves as a reminder to be more accepting of running behind schedule. Most patients do understand this is a possibility when they attend appointments and hurrying does increase the risk of harm. It is difficult to ignore the pressure of time, but personal safety is a priority.

Despite receiving my hepatitis b vaccinations, I couldn’t recall the number of doses or the last time I had a blood test to check immunity. Through reviewing the statistics, I concluded that my risk was 30% without antibodies and considerably lower with. Despite knowing this, I couldn’t help but feel paranoid. Researching needlestick injuries became part of my ritual as I waited for some new evidence to magically appear. The days after my blood test were filled with anxiety. This past week I was liberated after receiving my results detailing high levels of antibodies and the absence of hepatitis b.

This incident provided me with a wakeup call and learning experience. It also disseminates a much broader message—the value of vaccinations. I was lucky enough to have vaccine acquired immunity to protect me from disease. Without it, I could be disclosing a very different outcome. During a time when uncertainty has been publicised so widely in the media, I am grateful to be able to share the positive way in which my life has been impacted by vaccines.

NHS, nursing, the perfect job

Some news is good news.

I recently read a piece in The New York Times by a man praising the care his wife received in her final hours. The staff of the unit went to extremes to ensure their parting moments were as memorable and perfect as possible. So frequently, the news is plagued by negative stories about hospital care, debt, and standards of practice. This piece was both refreshing and moving-serving as a gentle reminder of exactly how rewarding working in healthcare can be.  It is easy to forget how simple gestures can change the lives of those who we care for and how they may remember these details for the rest of their lives. The article can be read here.

Internal Conflict, NHS, nursing, revalidation, the perfect job

Through the years.

This week I completed my revalidation with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. When this process was first introduced, I felt irritated at having to justify my right to a pin. Is 120 pounds every September and working full-time not enough? The paperwork was extensive so I placed it in the corner of my room and allowed it to collect dust until the last minute.
When I finally accepted that the portfolio was not going to complete itself, my frustration was rapidly replaced by a sense of accomplishment as I scrolled through the pages. In reviewing training and reflections from the past three years, I came to the realisation that I have grown a considerable amount since I first entered the register. While feeling preoccupied and deflated recently, I had neglected to acknowledge this.

In my first year of qualifying, I was trained to manage tracheostomies, neuro patients, intravenous medications, patient controlled analgesia, extra ventricular and lumbar drains, and nasogastric tubes. During the second year, I became trained in intermediate life support, cannulation and venepuncture, and trauma management. Not to forget any skills I learned on the job. Recently, I became an accredited sonographer in early pregnancy and passed my contraception competencies.

Although these three years of training cannot be amalgamated into progression towards a specific role, reflecting upon them has given me the strongest sense of achievement in my career. A recollection of our past, although in a seemingly unnecessary medium, allows us to take ownership for accomplishments and milestones. It provides incentive to make the next three years equally, if not more fruitful than the past. Most of all, it serves as a reminder that, even if we are in undesired jobs, our experiences have not been a waste of time.

To commemorate the past three years (and more) here are some pictures from different phases of my career.

coping, Internal Conflict, NHS, nursing, Published, student nurse, The Guardian, Uncategorized

The guardian.

I recently had a piece published in The Guardian. The thrill of seeing my writing published (and shared) was rather overwhelming. I’d like to thank anyone who shared this-I think it’s central to survival for healthcare professionals to be in touch with their emotions.  Although death (after time) seems routine in nursing, it is important to not become desensitised.  One comment in particular resonated with me-

it is when you stop feeling it it’s time for another job

You can read my  piece here.

coping, NHS, nursing, the perfect job

The unknown.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination of the unknown. This interest has often led me to pursue opportunities removed from any area of my expertise. It is this that has kept me motivated throughout my career. Perhaps it has prevented me from reaching satiety but it is the satisfaction of conquering unexplored territory that has fostered this drive.

Pursuing a career in nursing presented a significant challenge. The night before I commenced placement, I phoned my mother in hysterics. With minimal knowledge of healthcare and a vague idea of the role of a nurse, I could not foresee what the future held. What if I wasn’t equipped for this role? Where would that leave me? I reflected upon my reasons for following this pathway-with an affinity for spending time with people and a fascination with pathophysiology, how could this route not belong to me? As first year progressed into second, memories of previous doubts faded into the back of my mind.

Post qualifying, an awareness of complacency has left me intrigued by the unknown. After a year and a half of ward nursing, my interest was piqued by a position in the emergency department of one of the busiest hospital in the UK. When I was offered the job, a spark of excitement was ignited within. This was promptly followed by fear. In the first few months, I was propelled to the furthest corner of my comfort zone and shrouded with demoralisation. As I progressed, those sentiments were replaced with fluency. Although I left that role by no means an expert, overcoming my fears enabled me to build the confidence necessary for autonomy.

In a dramatic sequence of recent events, an unintentional obstacle has been placed in front of me. Although I am unable to discuss details in depth at present, I already find myself mulling over the could-be’s of the future. Despite not knowing where this could lead me, I can’t help but feel this could be my greatest challenge yet. With the summer months passing by at the speed of light, I am consoled by the realisation that the next encounter with the unknown lies within reach.

bursary, NHS, nursing, student nurse

The true meaning of bursary.

In selecting a nursing school, I was fortunate to have the option to attend in either the US or England.  If I were to have remained in the US, I knew a vast amount of money would be spent on my training.  The prospect of free tuition and a bursary provided a large incentive to consider other avenues.  For this very reason, I declined a place in the US and accepted a position here.

The entitlement to a bursary did not come without sacrifices.  While on placements, we worked the same 12 hour shifts as our mentors-days, nights, and weekends.  When social events arose, fulfilling clinical hours was always our priority. In practice, we functioned as units of the team, filling in gaps created by staff shortages.  In my first hospital placement, I fought to be treated as a student nurse.  Excuses were usually made-‘we’re short of staff’.  I left that placement with basic medical knowledge but an expert in toileting.  But with each monthly bursary payment, consolation came.  I was paid for this role-even if it was only 250 pounds a month.

As summer arrived, we watched the campus empty of students.  Friends from other courses celebrated the end of exams and submission of assignments.  It would be another two and a half months until our summer.  As we trudged through our 37.5 hour weeks, we counted down the days while wishing time would slow before our clinical exams.  Summers were not entirely devoid of work.  We were plagued with reflective accounts and organising our portfolios.  During this time, our bursaries would be re-assessed.  And each time we hoped for just a bit more.

In second year, I was placed back in the hospital and hurled into shift work again.  My mentor had been qualified for years, and despite being amiable, regretted her decision to become a nurse.  When she was signed off on long-term sick leave, I was re-assigned to another person who was critical and partial to a cutting remark.  My confidence was shattered and I became engulfed in doubt.  During this time, debriefing with my friends kept me afloat.  The bursary facilitated the opportunity to seek solace and feel liberated again.

When I qualified, I entered the professional world without debt.  Managing on a band 5 salary in Oxford presented enough of a challenge without the additional stress of student loans.  It is the bursary (and parents) that allowed me to enter the professional world with this clean slate.  Other than shielding me from debt, it represented payment from the NHS for three of the most difficult years of my life.  As someone who relied on the bursary throughout my training, it is disheartening to think that future student nurses will not be provided with the same reward.  The bursary symbolizes recognition of student input in the NHS and a token of appreciation.  With student morale at stake, I can’t help but fear for the future.


Internal Conflict, NHS, nursing, the perfect job, Uncategorized

Pride and the NHS.

I recently left the NHS to pursue a career in sexual and reproductive health. When I arrived at my decision, it seemed easy and logical. I had little doubt in my mind that the change would be positive. I was leaving for regular hours, an abundance of training, and a new, dynamic field. The monotonous routine of hospital work felt like imprisonment and it was time to break free.
A few months into my new job, I found myself reflecting on my time in the NHS. Sentiments of nostalgia surfaced as I recalled games of top trumps in comparing shifts with nurse friends (simultaneously making light of horrendous work days and debriefing on systemic faults). Surviving a work week felt like a triumph and days off were spent rewarding ourselves richly. Together, we represented units in a nationwide network. The sense of team and belonging stirred feelings of patriotism-unlike anything before. Contributing to a service exclusive to Britain felt like a privilege—I wanted to wear my pride on my sleeve. The opportunity to share these sentiments often arose when at home in the States. Upon being questioned about my occupation, I consistently identified myself as a ‘NHS nurse’.

What I could not anticipate was a devastating loss. For the moment, agency shifts have enabled me to maintain that small NHS fix. However, over the past month I have become increasingly aware of feelings of inadequacy. The yearning to belong hasn’t yet faded and my pride remains. Despite the murky future of the NHS, I can’t help but feel the desire to reclaim my identity.