My name is Dawn Marr and I am a Newly Qualified Mental Health Nurse, I qualified in September 2019.
I started my Nursing career within a low-secure forensic ward. I had spent time within this environment as a student and it really intrigued me, the amount of time that staff had available to spent time with patients was something that really drew me in. Patients within these settings often have complex needs which intertwine mental health, social and economic needs, I was excited to start my career here and make a difference.
Due to having to make up hours my transition from student nurse to newly qualified nurse was a very fast one, I was a Student Nurse one week and a Registered Nurse the next. I remember feeling at this point I was ready to become a Registered Nurse, I had spent 3 years on placements and studying the theory behind the practice and was confident in my abilities however, I soon realised that nothing could have prepared me for the moment my training wheels came off.
I no longer had the security of “I’m a student nurse”, I walked into a world where the full responsibility of being a registered nurse hit me hard and I went from “I’m ready for this” to “do I even know what I am doing?”. I struggled with imposter syndrome, the first time I introduced myself as a Staff Nurse I had this feeling that people were going to “find me out”, on the outside I was a nurse however on the inside I still felt like a terrified nursing student.
This feeling of being an imposter was a common theme within my first 6 months, it came in waves and appeared to be directly correlated to my confidence levels. I was soon in a position where I was helping nursing students who were in placement within my ward, this allowed me to support and pass on knowledge to these students, these experiences helped increase my confidence in my abilities.
During this time, I became involved with the RCN Newly Qualified Network. I soon found out my experiences were commonplace, speaking with other Newly Qualified Nurses gave me a space to voice my experiences and worries and gave me a sense that I was not in this alone. Feeling part of a community helped me to process this transition from student nurse to newly qualified nurse and it has been invaluable.
After 6 months in my first post I was beginning to settle into this new world of being a Registered Nurse. I however began to notice my mental health was becoming poor, I felt unable to switch off from work when I was at home, I struggled to sleep, my mood was low, and I could feel myself becoming withdrawn. This led to me to experience an identity crisis, I had spent 3 years juggling academic work, placements and part time work to finally fulfil my dream of being a Registered Nurse only to run into the stark reality that I was not enjoying it.
I engaged in reflective practice, clinical supervision and spoke with my colleagues and peers, this helped me identify that it was not being a nurse that I was not enjoying, it was the setting I was nursing in that I did not enjoy. This realisation came with lots of conflicting emotions and I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to change work environments.
After I came to this realisation I began to search for a new job, this came with feelings of guilt and failure, guilt for leaving a fantastic nursing team who needed staff and failure for not being able to “stick it out” in my first post.
I applied for a job within an acute admission ward, was invited to interview and ultimately was offered the job.
I was nervous to start this new chapter in my career, I would be working with up to 25 patients in my new job when I had previously been working with 8, my new environment would be very fast paced, and I knew could be chaotic at times. I joined my new ward and realised I had a lot of learning to do however felt I had a strong foundation to build on from my previous experiences.
I am now 3 months into my new job role, it has reignited my passion and my “fire” for the profession. My mental health has also improved, and I am able to switch off from work when at home and my mood is better.
The lesson I have learned through this experience is to be true to yourself and don’t ignore warning signs of your own mental health. Each one of us are individuals and finding a space within the nursing profession that “fits” with you will benefit you as a nurse and ultimately your patients.