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Nearly a nurse: transition to a new normal

Mar 20, 2021 | Opinion | 0 comments

First published Aug 27th 2020
I am immensely proud of Tash and even more so now that she has allowed me to work with her to get her story out there. I first worked with her *** years ago when running an early supported discharge service at Addenbrookes Hospital. It as an innovative service, one of those private partnerships that everyone shouts about but actually worked rather well. My team of nurses, support workers, physio’s and OT’s enabled early discharge and support of reablement and care packages into the community, releasing bed capacity and bridging the gaps between acute and social care. There were many stars in the team, but Tash stood out by far for her person centred approach at all times, despite challenging circumstances that we faced as a team. She, of course, never believed it, humble and self doubting but always extremely honest about where she was at that moment. She’s been through tough times but she is constant in her belief she can make a difference and I know she can. She has the fortitude, resilience and sheer determination to do what is right for her “patients”, whoever they are. It runs through her veins and can’t be taught.
Here she is…….
Nearly a Nurse
Having been working within Healthcare for the last 25+ years it has given me learning, knowledge and experience in so many areas of healthcare. Every time I deviated from healthcare to a more corporate role, it was care that pulled me back.
Whilst working in one of the many projects I got involved in I begun to develop an interest in psychology and how it is very much connected to physical health.
A humbling opportunity to have worked within a hospice opened my eyes further to the resilience of not only the person who was unwell, but also their family. Only by understanding all the dynamics of someone’s life and the impact on their mental health, can we really begin to look at them holistically. If someone was physically unwell which was compromising their mental health understandably, their need for healthcare for their mental wellness was just as important as the treatment they were being prescribed.
This led me onto exploring on many occasions, the nursing profession. I am not sure what held me back….was it the concern that the work would be further away from the patients? Was it fear of the unknown? Was it fear that I couldn’t do it?
Finally I made this decision. I had dilly dallied enough and I was getting to the point I so wanted to develop, have a voice and make a difference, this view point allowed me the determination to grab the opportunity and push this goal to reality.

It wasn’t a straight forward process, however, but this did not deter me and just made my desire more and my push to start my training even more determined. The commitment to training with a family of 3 children and a doting husband brought many sacrifices I had to make which I committed to wholeheartedly. There were tough times of studying late in the evening, traveling to a University 1hr and a half away but it was worth it, it will all be worth it – that is what I kept telling myself.
I was embracing the education and the knowledge I was gaining and really enjoying reading academia especially around mental health. The studying just completely consolidated the way I was on this pathway…… I was going to make a difference…The learning gave me so many ideas that I wanted to support and make a difference, the more I learnt the more determined I became.
Then Covid-19 yes we all were completely knocked of course….my world came to a complete hault…..this was not me I was always out and about with the children. We adjusted as a family, a few disgruntled words when the eldest teenager wanted to rebel and meet his friend in a field “No that isn’t the idea”. With a grunt he went back to his room and only grunted for a few ways. We settled as a family, I began to enjoy it, having my own bubble, the virus wasn’t getting near us… we tuned into Boris at 5 every day, it became a ritual.. We also had an added interest to keep us busy – our new recruitment company which we had started the previous April…. What was going to happen? How can we support people? What if all companies shut? Some very irrational questions but these were coming from the desperation feeling following the regular news bulletins. I continued to study in my own bubble really embracing all the learning and aspiring to getting a good grade. We got into a routine, we clapped on a Thursday and seemed to be managing the home schooling which was a shock…however OFSTED rating would not have been great, often my student lost interest in my flimsy approach and his school day finished by lunch time.
The University made contact and asked us to make our opinions known regarding being part of the workforce. Initially this was to support the frontline staff. These discussions changed multiple times in a week, I was actually very keen and couldn’t wait to get back to ward work. I was excited about starting a role I had been training so hard for. Being back on the ward was refreshing …..”No virus here” , that was until I started to over think and there came my first intense experience of anxiety. I began to dreading going in and was full of fear at the beginning of each shift. I had worked on this ward for over 5 years in my previous life and early student days. It was a place that should have been so familiar and feel safe to me and yet it was somewhere I didn’t recognise. I felt now, I didn’t fit, I was extremely nervous. I felt now as an “apprentice nurse” I was being treated differently and this scared me.
I had raised some comments regarding PPE and the process during the pandemic and I guess I just wanted reassurance from the more senior members of staff and my University mentors. This didn’t come, I put it down to everyone being so busy and us all being in a “new normal” finding their way etc and tried to get on as best I could, but the anxiety wouldn’t leave me, infact it got worse. I was always very proud to work for such an innovative team previousl, but now in the current role and the current climate things felt and appeared so very different and I was scared. I personally, at home and within my family and social group had been obeying all the government guidelines, however once at work the same guidance did not seem to match with no explanation of why and this confused and terrified me. I am a mental health ambassador, however during a pandemic I was feeling for the first time ever, conflict between my core values and the profession. I have always taken pride in myself and the decisions I make whilst on the ward providing full justified reasoning, however now I just couldn’t make a decision. It felt as if all my knowledge had gone, disappeared overnight. I was 6 weeks away from qualifying and felt I knew less than I did before. I felt extreme anxiety and believed that I was not going to be able to do this once qualified. The responsibility of it all engulfed me and completely took over my rationale brain.
Trying to regain some control, I requested to move wards, to see if this might help and allow me space to regroup. However, this was not greeted with the reception I was expecting. Whilst I appreciated that all staff were struggling with this “new normal” I felt I was making a fuss, causing problems where I was actually trying to alleviate unnecessary work that having a student on a unit such as that was bringing. I felt lost and unsure of what to do, I wanted to hide and go back to my lockdown routine, I couldn’t but I also couldn’t go back on the ward…..I tried but then experienced a panic attack, I had prepped myself, walked, eaten breakfast….coming out the shower I just broke down into pieces everything felt unfamiliar and I didn’t feel comfortable. I sought help from my GP and was put on some anxiety medication, having previously having to take it for past experiences with such feelings. However this time I was given double the previous dose and consequently I do not remember much of those days because of the desparately low level of my mood. All I could think of that that everything I had worked for, everything I had aspired to be I couldn’t do and that I had failed at it. I was thought keen to embrace any support I was offered and my world had to become all about looking after me but at the time I did not feel worthy of this at all, I’ve never been my own priority. I spent the best part of a month in my bedroom unable to come out let alone leave the house. Paranoia crept in I was convinced everyone was against me, I was a shadow of myself and could not find any interest in anything at all.
A good friend of mine told me to spend time with nature, “I can’t get dressed and your telling me to smell the F***ing flowers” another friend “you need to take time on you” None of it I believed. I was battling at every step thinking how I was meant to be the strong one, able to tolerate everything a NHS hero should. Why was not able to do this? These beliefs completely engulfed me and I lost myself completely.
On one of my treatment sessions and part of nurturing my well-being I was guided to participate in self-care. I joined a 5 day Facebook course which gave me an hour a day and permission to look after me, that was my hour where the start of a habit changed. All these skills were familiar but being in the profession we are unable to take our own advice and it is so much more powerful coming from someone else. I can’t say I particularly believed in myself, however it started to give me a boost and meant that I was not ruminating as much, I was distracting myself with simple things and starting to smell these damn flowers!
I remained off sick for the period of 4 months and due to the pandemic and the nature of my role as a mental Health nurse I felt scared of not only gaining my PIN but loosing it if I did qualify. These thoughts were constant and the battle I had was never easing, the fear was real, the thought of my practice being questioned, not being good enough, what if I did make a mistake??
So, I made the most difficult decision I have ever had to make to date, to end my nurse training – 6 weeks from completing the course. It was my only way forward in order to move forward positively, but it broke my heart. The career all my roles prior to had worked me towards, the career I saw myself in for the rest of my professional life was not to be. Even if I had completed my training I was paralysed with fear that it would only be a matter of time before I would be in a compromised position and even worse still being referred to the NMC, I was reassured that this wouldn’t happened by others, but knew in my heart that seeing the things I had seen would only make me more vulnerable.
I may not have qualified but I could do no more, despite pressure from my University who now wanted to offer help and support that was so severely lacking during my crisis. I changed my direction, it was the right thing for me and my family and I was very lucky that I could become a more prominent role within my husbands company. Things changed, “another new normal!”
Just as I was settling into my decision the realisation hit me that all my nursing experience and the skills I had learnt were not only valuable in business development but also very prominent within the recruiting/employment world and especially during this time of uncertainty.
I am now utilising my knowledge without fear and really can already feel I am making a difference. I have started a project delivering mental health webinars and started to work with the people who actually helped me!! (Able futures). I attended an online course aimed at recruitment owners and have started working collaboratively with an IT company – sharing knowledge and support. I have linked back with my old manager from days pre nurse training and supporting the organisation that she founded “NMCwatch: registrant care CIC”. Through working with NMCWatch we will be starting a project to provide an employment programme to help those struggling to find employment whilst undergoing investigation. I have begun to roll out a support package for candidates, offering our support services to the DWP and have even started my own development into coaching and skills predominantly aimed at adolescents.
So although I felt my life was changing and becoming unfamiliar, I am feeling more myself every day and have the ability to utilise my valuable knowledge in an environment where scrutiny isn’t so evident. Life changes, but change isn’t always a bad thing, it’s how you embrace it rather than let it envelope you. I may be “nearly a nurse” but that’s ok – I’m doing my bit just in a new normal…
Natasha Green, August 2020

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