New graduate nursing: stress, tears, laughter and rewards

28 March 2016

The first year of nursing can be a challenging initiation to the realities of the profession. Rosalie Davis spoke at the graduation of her NETP (Nursing Entry to Training Programme) year on the ups and downs of that journey. Her honest and touching speech is shared here.

This year has challenged me.

As I look around the room – from the nurses I work with on the ward to the ones I’ve got to know in study days – I think those challenges resonate with you all.

We’ve had to learn the routine of a nurse’s life, that is, that there is no routine.

We’ve had to accept that **itals** stat** holidays don’t exist – except for the bonuses on our pay checks.

We’ve learnt how important it is to make a plan at the start of the day, and the equal importance of adapting that plan to meet any one of hundreds of unexpected circumstances.

We’ve learnt to step up and be accountable for everything we do and say because we can, and will, be questioned on the decisions we make; because we are working with lives and what we do and say impacts on those lives.

We’ve learnt to advocate. To go by our instincts, to trust ourselves and to ask for help and do whatever it takes to ensure the best outcomes for our patients and their families, whether it be in restoring health, or honouring a life by providing a dignified and comfortable death.

We’ve learnt to cry (something I’m very practiced at). To go to the treatment room, wipe away our tears, take a deep breath, and accept that some things can’t be fixed.

We've learnt how to hold hands as people grieve, but to accept the grief as theirs and not our own, because when we do this we are much more effective nurses.

We’ve had days where we have wanted to run away, where we’ve questioned who we are, why we’re here and why we do what we do, when the same pay – or more – could get us a job much easier than the career that lies ahead of us.

But we also have the kind of days like I’ve had today. When you have time to laugh and joke with your patients, to share time with your colleagues and enjoy the bliss of one of the very few (dare I say it) **itals** quiet** days.

We have days when you see a patient walking out the hospital doors, who just a week earlier you fought to hold a ventilator on for two hours, as the chance of them dying if you didn’t was just not worth gambling with. You see their daughter laughing with them as they leave and you think the fact you didn’t get a break that night doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things.

And there are days you start your shift to find your patient is over being in hospital and today – after weeks of tests and treatments – is their breaking point. They start to get mad, they start to cry, and your shift plan crumbles as you sit down and patiently listen to find out their fears and what is wrong. You don’t promise to fix it, but you promise to try.

A few hours later that patient thanks you for understanding and for helping, and apologises for taking it all out on you. You tell them that it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t. What matters is that all you gave was your time and you made a difference in their day and that, to me, is worth something more than meeting some target in a corporate job. We see patients and families in some of their lowest moments and it is an honour to be trusted in these moments, with their questions, their fears, and to be accepted and respected for the knowledge we have.

We’ve all grown this year, but we couldn’t have done it without the support of our friends and families, our colleagues and the NETP team. Thanks also to our friends and families. You’ve held us when we’ve cried – you’ve dealt with us when we’ve been tired, stressed, moody and exhausted. Thank you for understanding.

I want to thank the staff who have supported us – for hiring us for starters, for seeing a future in us, and for nurturing and supporting us. For not judging us when we weren’t coping, for being there when we needed it, but still giving us space as well. Also for offering their advice and wisdom, for helping us grow into confident nurses who can and will make a difference in the lives of our patients.

Thank you to the whole NETP team, who pop up on the ward when we least expect it but need it the most, especially during those first few weeks on our own. You helped us stay afloat.

Finally, I want to thank my fellow new grads, because it meant so much being able to share how we were really doing. It made it ok to know we were all feeling just as lost as each other.

We have all come a long way since our scary and exciting orientation days. We have grown confident in the areas we work in; we still have a lot to learn, we always will, but the future is ours. I’m excited to see where we all go, where we specialise and where our careers take us. Because nursing offers a future with hundreds of different paths, and this year, I believe, has helped to prepare us to walk down any of those paths that we choose, to push boundaries, to ask questions, to act in a way that will drive the future of nursing and patient care.


*About the author: Rosalie Davis is now a second-year nurse in the same ward at Waitemata DHB’s North Shore Hospital in which she spent her NETP year.


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