Maintaining Friendships Old And New

I moved into halls for the first year of university despite already living in Manchester (well, Greater Manchester). I felt ready to gain some independence by ‘flying the nest’ and wanted to be within walking distance of university. When I lived with my mum before university I was only less than twenty miles away from the main campus so my friends from home who I used to live super close to aren’t incredibly far from my accommodation. The nursing course can get pretty hectic at times; more often than not all you want to do when you get back from placement is have a good kip!

Seeing my friends from home can be tricky to plan, to be honest, especially seeing as they have commitments like work and studying just like I do and it’s not just a ten minute journey involved in meeting up. I probably don’t tell them enough that I miss them, but I really do, and I really look forward to going home to meet up with my friends or having them stay over at my flat. Seeing my friends from home is so good for helping me stay grounded and true to my incredibly Mancunian roots and it reminds me of a big reason why I’m doing this course. I really hope I can make the people I care about and who care about me proud. If you don’t have the opportunity to meet up with your friends from home very often you’ll understand that the time you spend together is golden and you’ll appreciate it all the more. I’m so, so fortunate to have maintained friendships with such a brilliant bunch of people even after all these years.13151090_226356241076122_2131036156_nI enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made on my course too, as I think we have a good balance between chatting about nursing as well as unrelated things. We’ll talk about what skills we’ve been learning on placement and helping each other stay motivated when writing assignments by offering suggestions of resources to look at and just offering a pep talk sprinkled with the essence of ‘as a fellow student nurse, I really know how you feel’ then five minutes later we’ll be having a conversation about something like make-up or food. I’m so, so fortunate to have made such a brilliant bunch of friends at uni.

My advice to anybody studying on a course that keeps you super busy (ring any bells?) would be to appreciate and make time for your friends from home whilst still being open to making new friendships at uni. Your friends from home will be glad that you’re enjoying yourself and have support for when they can’t physically come to see you. Believe me, you’ll have no idea how you would have made it through uni without your friends – old and new.

 

“The doctor says I’m dying”: tough conversations about death

One of my most vivid placement memories was my first conversation with a patient about dying. One afternoon I went to check on Joan (name changed), a lady in a side room on an elderly ward. I was helping her to have a drink when she looked up and said: “the doctor says I’m dying.”

I froze. My stomach turned and my mind started racing, taken aback by a statement I felt totally unprepared to respond to. I had grown fond of Joan and to see her so distressed was upsetting. I felt a sense of panic, worried that I might say the wrong thing.

I knew from the handover that morning that Joan was receiving end of life care and from what the other nurses had said, she was deteriorating and it was unlikely that she would get any better.

Taking a deep breath, I thought back to our communication lectures which covered how to deal with difficult questions. I drew up a chair next to Joan and holding her hand, I asked some straightforward questions like ‘when did you discover that?’ and ‘how does that make you feel?’, trying my best to mask my own anxiety and appear relaxed.

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While I think I started off ok, all of a sudden I panicked; I didn’t know what to say next.  Almost without thinking, I said: “Don’t worry Joan, we’re all doing everything we can to get you better and back to your normal self.”

I immediately felt awful and her face said it all; she knew I was covering. I said it out of a desire to help Joan stay hopeful, optimistic, but in reality it sounded trite, like I was brushing her off and trying to avoid a deeper conversation. I think that it made her feel worse.

Kicking myself, I spoke to my mentor who reassured me that she too struggled with questions like those and some research when I got home that night revealed that I wasn’t alone – apparently it’s common for healthcare professionals to avoid or block difficult questions, particularly about death or dying. I suppose we like to focus on how we can ‘fix’ things and don’t want our patients to lose hope.

Looking back, I wish I’d spent more time with Joan, even just to sit quietly by her side. She may have had more questions that she wanted to ask and as a student nurse, I may not have known the answers but I could have found out on her behalf.

Honesty and courage are such important parts of nursing, especially at the end of someone’s life. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to be there; to listen, answer questions and ease fears – or just to hold someone’s hand and let them know that they are not alone.

Mid-Season Blues??

Tired?      Stressed?      Had enough?

Feel like a failure or like you’ve made a big mistake?      Too much work and no play?

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This could be a case of the mid-season blues!

Okay so there isn’t anything technically proven about mid-season blues but I bet nearly everyone has felt it at some point in their journey.

I used to be a holiday rep and every season there would be an almost mass exodus of reps half way through the summer as they were mainly homesick, fed up of long hours and most were feeling pressure as the main summer had kicked in and it was busy!!!

I noticed the same thing in the nursing degree course. It would hit everyone at different points in the course however, but the feelings seemed to be the same.

People felt down and fed up (mainly in second year if I’m honest as the end just seems so far away).

If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t worry! It’s not just you – you are not alone.

It seems this feeling is perfectly normal and any lack of motivation right now could affect your judgement on if this course is really right for you.

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Please don’t make any rash decisions. Talk to your family and friends. Talk to your peers and tutors and discuss your feelings with them before you decide anything.

You will more than likely come out the other side and carry on with your degree with great success. Yes there will be some who do realise that now is not the right time for them, and that is ok too. No one will judge you and you shouldn’t judge yourself either. Tough decisions aren’t called tough decisions for no reason!

I sit here now in my final year that last placement and sign off is getting closer and closer! Yet I remember my friends and I, all experiencing the mid-season blues. We helped and encouraged each other through it. Providing moral support in words and tissues for the tears when they came! But, we made it and I for one have never felt prouder of myself for staying the distance!!

A good moan can do you wonders, a few beers with friends, a weekend off the study. Whatever it is you need, just have that break and look forwards and reflect with fresh eyes.  You’ll soon find yourself job hunting and thinking where did the time go –I did!

Go for it – You can do this!  – brush those mid-season blues to one side and get your head back on track to becoming the awesome nurse you will be!

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