My support network

Last weekend, in the early hours of the morning, at the end of a lovely night shift, a patient in my care died. Now, I know we’ve all experienced a patient dying at some point, we’ve all jumped into action at the sound of the emergency alarm. But this was different because this was MY patient and my first as a Registered Nurse.

I’d seen her asleep in bed only five minutes before, and she was deep sleep breathing. She was still for resuscitation, and when my amazing HCA alerted me to the fact she wasn’t breathing, she pulled the alarm, and we started CPR. The whole team rose to the task, and each one of us did our best for her. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do anything. My Band 6 put her arm around me and said ‘go and have a cup of tea and some time on your own, and we’ll call her daughter’. 

I sat and just broke down, and absolutely sobbed. Once the initial wave had subsided, I started typing out a text, one to a group of individuals who would know exactly how this felt, and who would be able to offer some sound words of comfort and advice – the RCN Newly Qualified Nurse (NQN) group chat. A group of NQNs all from different nursing fields in different areas of the UK, who are all dedicated to supporting other NQNs. 

A few months ago, I noticed a few student nurse activists (some of whom had qualified) on Twitter, promoting the launch of a new support network called RCN NQN. Naturally, I wanted to be involved as I’d felt a little lost as an NQN. 

I’d been such a busy activist as a student nurse, and since qualifying my activist lifestyle had just stopped dead! I hadn’t been involved in anything at all, and there seemed to be a void for NQNs. I didn’t feel like I’d had a lot of support and not a lot of presence or representation on social media. Many of my colleagues had received a booklet and badge from the RCN. But I hadn’t even had that. There wasn’t anything else for NQNs available at that point. There was definitely a gap in the support network for NQNs. 

Of course, it’s worth noting that I qualified and became registered at the end of November 2019, so it was only a few months before the pandemic was upon us. However, between finishing university in September 2019 until the spring of this year, there was a considerable gap. I wasn’t a student anymore, so I couldn’t take part in any student nurse activities like before, and I didn’t feel I was able to be involved in other events.

As soon as I showed an interest in RCN NQN, I was asked if I’d like to be a part of it. Knowing most of the group beforehand was handy, as I had a good rapport with them, and had spent time with them outside of work-related activities. A notable memory was the RCN Student night at Bierkeller in Liverpool last year at RCN Congress. It seems like a distant memory now…..absolutely zero social distancing that night!

As students, we’d all gone through personal adversities in our own right, and supported each other through them. I’d had huge support last year through one of the most challenging years I’ve ever had to go through, as well as being in my final year as a student, and the gang were always there on the group chat. 

Now we’re all qualified (or nearly there!). And there are new faces too! Again, different fields, different backgrounds, but all dedicated to the same cause – providing support and guidance. A perfect mixing bowl of experience and knowledge, who are all experiencing this crazy world as NQNs.

Within a few minutes of that text going to the group chat, several others who were either up early or on night shifts themselves were replying with kind words of advice and support—and knowing that they’ve all felt that sorrow over a patient was comforting. I felt less alone. Of course, I had my team at work, but there’s something about this team of NQNs and final stage student nurses that I really feel are a big support net as an NQN. So my biggest advice is to find your people.


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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