These thoughts came to me one day when my daughter came home from the hospital where she was on her first placement as a student enrolled nurse (EN), she had worked a few shifts and was beginning to get her head around the routine of the maternity ward, and she was discussing how she felt with me.
She said that a patient had called her “nurse” and asked for some assistance with her new born baby. While the student nurse felt capable to perform the request confidently she also referred to herself as a “nurse illusion” as she just did not feel that she was a real nurse yet and she just wondered a tiny bit if the patient realised that she had only just learned how to wrap a baby herself yesterday by practising with a cushion and a tea towel at home.
She was full of the excitement of having her own patients and the responsibility of their care entrusted to her. On her previous shifts she had spent the day glued to her RN or midwife as this was a maternity ward placement. She learnt the run of the ward and how to bath a new baby and help mum with the baby’s care. She was beginning to grasp many of the ideas around the care of the new mum and precious bub.
She had the support of an RN or a midwife and the clinical educator, however as we all know in the real world these support people are not always on hand. It was at one of these moments that she felt that the patient who was requesting her assistance was really getting “just an Illusion of a nurse”. She was not a real nurse yet, not experienced enough, and not yet fully trained.
Yes, her hair was neatly tied back, she had the uniform on and she was wearing sensible nurses’ shoes, but really she was just a young girl who knew that she was doing ok, but is it enough…
Patients do not always understand the various uniform differences and even though her identity badge clearly states STUDENT NURSE, this is not always fully understood. They do not know that this is a nurse’s first ever hospital placement, first real live patient. She did feel somewhat adrift at times though tried not to show it. She had been warned to “look confident and keep busy.”
Our responsibility to our student nurses and new graduates is to give them our support, encouragement and especially our time. Our responsibility to ourselves is to stay current, work within evidenced based guidelines and remember why we became nurses. We need an engaged, vibrant, nursing workforce and as they learn from us we learn from them. A shared experience doubles the pleasure.
These nurses are not illusions; they will be the nurses that care for us.