After Dr Kate Granger introduced the #HelloMyNameIs campaign before she died in 2016, she changed the face of patient care by encouraging healthcare and medical staff to introduce themselves more. Which is why I find it difficult to understand why on many occasions, calling student nurses by their name isn’t something that is expected or encouraged. We are labelled as “the student”, our identities stripped from us as quickly as we change from our ordinary clothes in the ward changing room. I think that needs to change.
Hello, my name is Rebecca. I am a final year student nurse and I think I deserve respect for that. Unlike everybody else on the ward, I won’t be getting paid for working (hard!) for up to 13 hours of the day. I don’t resent this, because first and foremost, I am here to learn. I want to be welcomed as a member of the team and I am here to help. I want to be involved, I want to be included and if I am then you will get the best of me.
I’m sure you know how demoralising it feels when you introduce yourself on your first day of placement, six or seven times, and are trying to make a good impression, but nobody can seem to remember your name, even weeks after you started on the ward. Admittedly, it must be hard for the staff, with the constant turnover of timid and eager young people that come through the doors, but considering we each wear a name badge with our names clearly displayed, there isn’t really an excuse.
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I come to placement, I go home, I go to work, I go to uni and then I repeat the cycle. I am exhausted, and this can be made worse by sometimes feeling that I don’t belong. My off-white student nurse uniform is worn and sad. Between each stitch holding it together is every experience I’ve had in the past three years, showcased in marks and stains. I alternate between the final two uniforms that have made it this far, because I left a pen in my pocket with the other three in the washing machine and they aren’t fit to be worn anymore. These uniforms have seen every single body fluid you can think of, and then some. It has seen tears of grieving relatives and frightened patients. They are covered in faint yellow patches from (badly) drawing up Pabrinex in the treatment room. This uniform tells everybody who I am. I am proud to wear it, even if it’s the most unflattering, uncomfortable thing I have ever put on my body. But I feel lucky to be here; to be wearing it.
I feel lucky, because I get a wealth of opportunities that I can grab with both hands. I can see every corner of the hospital from a supernumerary perspective, I can take advantage of squeezing every bit of information from specialist services, from physios, from dietitians and pharmacists. I’ll learn, and difficult situations will test me. I’ll be invited into patients’ homes and see vulnerable, private situations. I can be accepted. Treated as an equal. Treated as a professional.
I feel lucky, because I have direction. Be the mentors name Debbie, Cath, Kaleigh or Danni, they have shaped the person, and the nurse that I am going to become. They have laughed with me, they have been there when all I really needed to do was sit with my head in my hands in the staff room and cry. They have been there to direct me, indirectly supervise me, and show me things that I would never have known without them. They have given me the opportunity to manage my own patients, plan my own workload, speak to the doctors, talk to the relatives, be there for the patients as the professional that they see on the front line and that they trust.
I feel lucky, because I get to see and do the things that the nurse might not have time for. I might have that few extra minutes to sit with the gentleman who has just been admitted and is worried, because he doesn’t feel as though he knows what is happening. I might have the time to hold the hand of the lady with dementia who is agitated and confused and reassure her that everything is going to be okay. I can help the relative who is sitting crying in the corridor while her son has a cardiac arrest. I have the time to take her somewhere safe where she can spend time understanding what has happened and what might come next. I have time to make tea and toast for the wonderful, sweet older lady who asks for a second breakfast, and then an eleven o clock snack.
So yes, I might be just a student to some. But I will miss these moments when I qualify. I’ll miss the extra seconds and the time to reflect, and to make mistakes. But I am more than just “the student”, I am your nurse of tomorrow.