~ Before I write about my personal experiences, I just want to acknowledge that this pandemic is having an impact on everyone but in completely different ways. We need to remember to be empathetic to each persons struggles because none of us have experienced a situation like this before. Lives have been completely shifted for some people and the effects of those changes will have a lasting impact on the months to come. Just remember to look after each other (from a distance) and stay at home so the people in the health services and key workers can continue to do their jobs to the best of their ability. We want to help you but need you to work with us to do that. ~
Just under 3 weeks ago I was a third year mental health student nurse who had just confirmed her job offer for September and cried with relief that it was one thing ticked off my list. I had two weeks left of my second placement, 3 weeks off at easter, an exam, a dissertation and my final 14 week placement left to do. and that was it, I’d have all of August off to chill out before becoming a registered nurse and starting my career.
But the background, we were hearing the news about the coronavirus impacting other countries and i think i’m not alone in saying that i didn’t even consider how much can change in less than a month.
There was a lot that was changing day by day in my course, the university had to think on their feet to adapt to the new information we were receiving. My exam was changed to an essay and then scrapped completely. I chose to not go into my last week of placement and self isolate for a week in my uni flat because there was a suspected case i had been around and woke up with a sore throat. I aired on the side of cautious because I didn’t want to put those at risk on placement in danger and knew i would be going home to family who have health issues.
After many emails and discussions in our course group chat, some misinformation circulating around the internet and zoom conferences with university lecturers, we received a form about if we wanted to opt in or opt out of an emergency nursing register to help with the staffing requirements.
We had less than 6 months left of our course, all of the teaching completed, one final management placement to do, we were deemed to have the skills and knowledge needed to be supernumerary. I’m grateful that I had taken the time leading up to this to fully consider my options and make the decision that would be best for myself.
I chose to opt out.
I’m still going to be completing a 14 week placement which may get extended based on the requirements of staff, I still have my dissertation to complete (although it’s cut in half which i’m okay with) and im still going to be qualifying in September.
I commend my course mates and other student nurses who are choosing to go down the route of a 6 months placement and i’m glad that they will be paid for it because their presence will be invaluable as much as when we are registered nurses.
But i’m proud that I didn’t bow to the pressure to be put in a position that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I value my status as a student and will still feel proud (once i’ve submitted my dissertation) that I made the right decision. I did it for personal and academic reasons, knowing my sensitivity to possible stress and burn out if i did opt in. I’m passionate about my career choice and want to be a good nurse but I’ve got to take into consideration my own mental health before I can appropriate care for someone elses.
This is a new situation for majority of people in the healthcare profession but know that working during a pandemic will only strengthen my knowledge and skills as well as a source of reflection in my future practice.
To everyone else reading this, i hope you and your families are okay, remember to stay home and look after those around you.