Help! I’m a newly qualified nurse starting in the middle of a pandemic.

I’ve just completed my first four weeks as a newly qualified registered nurse. Like many of you, I’ve taken up my first post, working in infectious diseases, in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t remember the module that covered starting your career during these “unprecedented times”. And I don’t think anything could have prepared us.

In Scotland, to gain NMC registration, most student nurses complete a three-year Bachelor of Science degree. I gained my registration in September 2019 at the end of my third year. But stayed on at university to complete my Honours year, which takes four years in Scotland. I watched my friends who had finished their third years start their nursing careers. Many of my peers completing their Honours year worked part-time as registered nurses while doing so. Due to my workload as RCN Students’ Committee chair, I chose to take my fourth year as a solely academic year.

I didn’t believe I could juggle my studies, RCN responsibilities, and working part-time. I worried all the balls would come crashing down. That I would fail at everything. While I don’t regret my decision, it meant when I started this job, I hadn’t been in a clinical setting since my management placement in August 2019. I was confident in my abilities as a student. I was an “expert” at being a student nurse. But now as a “novice” nurse, I’m constantly worried that I don’t know what I am doing. That I will make a mistake. That this will affect my registration. But most importantly, that it will affect patient care or safety.

I have an incredibly supportive team and preceptor. They have all made me feel so welcome and like no question I have is stupid. I know I can turn to them. But I can’t shake this fear. I think a large part of this is because of when I’ve started. I am the only newly qualified nurse in my ward. Due to the pandemic, our face-to-face induction and preceptorship programmes are not currently running. Also, I work with six nurses who qualified and started working last September when I could have. I see how much they have developed and grown as professionals. I’m so impressed. But it makes me feel so far behind.

The reason I am telling you this is because I know I’m not alone. Last year as RCN Students’ Committee chair, I heard so many stories about newly qualified nurses who needed support: from peers, from colleagues, and from the RCN. The voice of students is loud within the College, but once qualified, newly qualified registrants can feel like they are no longer a priority. Like they don’t’ belong. Like their voices are drowned out by louder members of the College. And that is why RCN Newly Qualified Nurses is so crucial. Because it is yours. We want to hear what you want and need. I want you to know you’re not alone.

This quote from RCN Congress 2018 really resonates with me, “I’ve got your back, you’ve got my ear”. That’s what we want to do at RCN Newly Qualified Nurses. Support and listen. I certainly know I need it.

Lastly, my biggest piece of advice, ironically the one I find the hardest to follow, is to be kind and patient with yourself and take time for you.

I have attached links for our online Newly Qualified Nurses Handbook, and an interview I did with Dr Ruth Oshikanlu, where I discuss the aims of RCN Newly Qualified Nurses (from 19:00) if you want to access them.

We got this!

Craig (@CraigDavidson85)

Published by RCN Newly Qualified Nurses

The voice of newly qualified nurses within the Royal College of Nursing. Providing support from six months pre-registration throughout preceptorship.

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