Like everyone, my route into nursing was unique. I served for seven years as an officer in the British Army’s Royal Engineers(RE) before transferring to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC). My transfer saw me studying in a civilian university away from the military for the first time since joining. I found university hard but not in the way my peers seem to. I was used to working hard, being in uncertain situations, and am fairly academic, so the course content wasn’t too challenging. I found it hard because I went from a position of huge responsibility where I felt valued and respected, to a student nurse where, sometimes, staff on placement couldn’t spare you a smile or a good morning. Things were pretty bad. Although convinced that nursing was an incredible profession, I wasn’t happy and resigned to the fact that I had made a mistake in transferring. However, the sorry state of my student nurse experience is a whole other blog, this one is about finding your role and your people.
I knew from day one of my first staff nurse post it was going to be ok. On that first day, I put my MTP (combats) back on for the first time in three years. Although I had a new capbadge and other insignia (as I am now part of QARANC and no longer a RE) I felt like I was home. I know this sounds cheesy; however, I am proud to serve in our Armed Forces and after a decade of doing so, I have realised it is part of my identity. Things only got better as I met and was welcomed by the staff at my new unit; I felt encouraged as I was around like-minded people again. I had missed the banter and support of the military, the physical training, and the opportunities to develop.
At my military unit (Joint Hospital Group (South) Army, Royal Navy and Royal Airforce registered nurses and health care support workers work alongside their NHS colleagues in Queen Alexandra University Hospital Trust. We split our time between clinical and military training. Newly qualified nurses at JHG(S) have a year preceptorship where they have placements in both medical and surgical ward/units followed by an elective. Our preceptorship is slightly different from our NHS colleagues and designed to prepare us for our deployed role wherever it may be. Indeed, many military nurses deploy on exercises and operations around the world as soon as they finish their preceptorship; sometimes, in extremis, they will deploy before.
Luckily, things have remained positive since putting my clinical uniform on. I have been allocated the Acute Medical Unit as my first preceptorship post, an area I didn’t have an opportunity to experience as a student, and I am really enjoying the fast pace and variety of work. No two days are the same. Importantly, I am also enjoying being part of the team of people I am working alongside, both military and civilian. Both my new NHS colleagues and my military peershave been incredibly welcoming and brilliant mentors. All my fears about regretting my career change have gone; I finally feel valued and have purpose again.
I guess the moral of my story is similar to that which Dawn described in her brilliant blog last month. If you are not happy where you are, perhaps you should think about making a change. Although admittedly I didn’t actively choose my change and simply went where the military told me, returning to a military environment and changing trust and work area has made a huge difference to how I feel about my career. If you are feeling unhappy at work, you should have a think about what would make you happier. Nursing is ridiculously diverse – there is so much on offer. Changing your role to suit your skillset, likes and dislikes could have a huge impact on how fulfilled you feel. Changing your role may also introduce you to a different team and they might just be your people.