Now, this is a tricky one; what do I fear in the future of nursing? I would say that I am usually pretty fearless. I always try to be optimistic about the future, and I believe in channelling positivity out into the Universe. However, I guess at my stage of training, where I am about to enter my third year of study, I fear that I am not going to be ready to go out into the world of nursing and be responsible for the care of patients on my own as a staff nurse.
I worry that I’ll never know enough and that could compromise patient care – I want to know everything and I want to know it now! When on placement, if I don’t know something, I will always ask, and then I will find a research article to consolidate my learning. I am an inquisitive perfectionist and always have been – I was one of those precocious children always asking “but why?”, and when I am the nurse, not the student, I know I won’t like not knowing all the answers.
However, this is an irrational fear: I will never be able to learn everything I will need to know over my, hopefully, lengthy nursing career before qualifying, because so much continued learning and development is done on the job once qualifying. Also, nursing continually evolves and changes to reflect best evidence-based practice, as it should. I am sure I am not alone in this fear as a student nurse, but as the clock ticks down towards qualifying it is definitely in the back of my mind, even though I am doing well both academically and on placement.
With regards fear for the future of nursing in general, I guess I am worried that we are unable to sort out the current staffing crisis and continue to struggle to recruit and retain nurses. I have seen in practice, while on placement, nurses having to take shortcuts because they don’t have time, including not counting respiration rate for a full minute, even though altered respirations are one of the first signs of a deteriorating patient. I have seen a nurse forced to take care of 14 patients on a night shift, all of whom were in single rooms, many with advanced dementia, delirium and at a high falls risk, all because there were only two registered nurses on shift. I have seen nurses so stretched that it has affected their mental health and they have gone off with stress. Often this is coined “compassion fatigue”, I would say that it’s exhaustion and unrealistic expectation and pressure.
The staffing crisis affects patient safety and satisfaction; I don’t want to be put under the pressure of having to become one of these nurses. It doesn’t reflect how I have been trained; it’s not who I want to be as a nurse, and I am confident it’s not who these nurses want to be either. We as nurses are supposed to be the advocate for our patients, delivering holistic patient-centred care. When stretched past physical, psychological and emotional capacity, this isn’t always possible, which is why I am grateful for the work the Scottish Government and RCN Scotland are doing regards safe staffing legislation.
Another fear is that we collectively as nurses don’t use our voice to champion our profession. I passionately believe we need to be more politically active. It is not always in the nurses’ nature to be immodest, but it is time we made some noise. We deserve to be paid better for what we do; we deserve societal recognition that nursing is a complex, multi-skilled, degree level profession, which requires constant critical thinking and application of best evidence-based practice to deliver the best patient care. Nursing has evolved, it’s time for society’s views to catch up.
I am so proud to be a student nurse, and I cannot wait to be a nurse, and I hope as I advance through my studies and career these fears are alleviated. If not, I will make my voice heard for the benefit of all patients and nurses.