Here comes 2021.

Those that know me can assure you that I am generally an optimist. However,  just like everyone else, 2020 has pushed this personality trait to its limits. Not only have I just completed my nursing degree and taken a new post during the pandemic, but the lack of socialising with family and friends has really taken its toll on me.

However, the small action that made a big change that I experienced on Wednesday was I received the first of my two COVID- 19 vaccinations. I know people have their trepidation about receiving the vaccine, and each to their own. But, I see it as a step in the right direction.

During the summer, when people were saying roll on 2021, I was struggling to see 2021 being any different to 2020, but I now have hope that we are making progress to a safer future. These small steps are bringing back my sense of optimism. I can now see a future in which I’ll be able to hug my mum, something I dearly long for; to go to the gigs I have been anticipating since 2019, and the eagerly anticipating the celebrations that are sure to arise when we are all finally able to socialise.

As I am just three weeks into my new post as an NQN in a Coronary Care Unit, I am still finding my feet on the ward. I am genuinely grateful to the staff that have been amazing in making me feel welcome and taking the time to teach me the skills I didn’t necessarily come across as a student. And it’s helping me grow in confidence. Its the little nods of encouragement, hearty well done, and the socially distanced high fives from very experienced staff that keep me excited about my next shift! A feeling I can use to show passion about my job, and hopefully, share the joy with the patients I care for.

Happy New Year!

Marie http://www.twitter.com/marieshaw1

Swimming out of the deep end.

For a second, I had gone blank, not knowing what to write about for the #SmallActionsBigChanges movement. I did not feel like I was in the right frame of mind to write about something positive.

Why? Well, I had my first supernumerary week at my first NQN role at the beginning of this week. Then, only on my third day, I got added to the numbers and was given my own patients. Now bear in mind that the environment was completely new to me and the documentation system was also different to the one that I was used to.

The whole day felt like I was swimming my way out of the deep end, but soon as I reached the top, something pushed me right back into the deep end again.

Adrenaline kept me going, and before I knew it, it was the end of the shift and had to start rushing to finish my notes for my patients. At this point, I was feeling completely overwhelmed, and due to the shortage of staff, I knew the senior members had done the best they could in terms of support. I have to confess that by 8 pm I was in tears, tears from feeling as though I didn’t perform to my best ability, tears from feeling as though I didn’t know the rules for my new trust, and tears from feeling as though I didn’t feel as though I was able to advocate for patients as I used to in familiar grounds.

As I sat down feeling shitty a couple of fairly new nurses sat with me and helped me get through the last obstacle of understanding the new documentation system. They shared similar stories with me, sat and listened to my frustrations, and they showed compassion and empathy. They stayed behind, and we walked home together, laughing and chatting. Those small actions of these few nurses have made a huge impact to what is the very beginning of my career.

So, how do we pass the baton? How do we share our stories to make others feel better about themselves? Our #SmallActionsBigChanges blogs so far have all resonated and inspired me.

If ever you find yourself in the position that I have written about above, I advise you to grab someone you find approachable and just be honest and let them know you feel overwhelmed and defeated. There is no shame in it.

Ask for help in order to practice safely. If you have not had adequate training in something, ask, ask and ask again. It may make you feel like you are an inconvenience to others, but you have to protect your patients, yourself and your PIN.

Lily Wolday http://www.twitter.com/MissWolday

Staff Nurse

The surprising impact of a bag of carrots.

In what seems to be a theme with this week’s #SmallActionsBigChanges blogs I initially wasn’t sure what to write about, and then it came to me – a bag of carrots!

One of the best things about this year for me has been seeing how my local community has reacted to the unexpected challenges we have all faced. A group at my local church had been providing soup and sandwiches to vulnerable and lonely people in our community once a week. On the first day of the lockdown they decided they needed to do more, and as a consequence they have provided soup and sandwiches Monday to Friday for up to 60 people free of charge; that’s over 6000 rounds of sandwiches.

Some people in that group, along with others, have been working for three years with local refugees and asylum seekers. At the start of lockdown, 50 asylum seekers were placed in a local hotel that was closed because of lockdown. It became apparent that they had very little food provided, and so the group began to provide hot, culturally friendly meals; again free of charge, and have tried to help them with their issues.

If that wasn’t enough for this week, I was struck by a third impact. At the end of Sunday’s church service, a local guy turned up. He has mental health problems and has faced lots of challenges in his life. He came to tell us that he had been made homeless and had lost his medication. Within minutes a large bowl of soup appeared and whilst he had his first hot meal in a couple of days, lots of people got on with sorting out his issues.

So, where I hear you ask, does the bag of carrots come into it? Well, this work has only been possible because of people making donations of everything from food to time. You might not have the time to volunteer, but just by giving a bag of carrots to a similar organisation near you might just change someone’s life.    

Daniel http://www.twitter.com/MAGEOFJUSTICE

#SmallActionsBigChanges

Kindness

As I sit down to write this blog, I’m reflecting on what a year 2020 has been, not only for myself but for my loved ones and my patients, it was a year full of unknowns and uncertainty.

I have seen the best in people this year – my neighbours checking in on each other during isolation periods, and the general kindness shown to one another. That spirit of kindness has kept me going through this challenging time.

I acknowledge this has been a difficult year for us all. However, for those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ this year has been especially hard; some stuck in lockdown with families who don’t approve of who they are; some are being beaten for being true to themselves; some even being thrown out on the streets, and some sadly are taking their own lives.

This subject is something that is close to my heart. I identify as a gay woman, and although I had the full support of my family during coming out, it was still a really tough time, and the reality that some people don’t have that support breaks my heart.

Over the years, I have experienced first hand what a small act of kindness can do, and I can recall vividly one of these moments.

I was 15 and had just left secondary school and finally came out as gay. My head was all over the place at the time, and I knew my previous classmates were all aware of my coming out, and I was the latest “hot gossip” at school. I recall having to attend school to sign some forms, and I was dreading it.  I arrived at the school and was anxiously waiting in the corridor, hoping nobody would see me. My old English teacher came down the corridor at that moment and stopped to talk to me and said: “I heard your news, I wanted to tell you that I’m incredibly proud of you”.

That statement may not seem like much, but to me, at that moment, it was all I needed to make me feel slightly better like I was accepted.  And I left that building a little braver whilst holding my head a little higher. She probably made that comment and then went on with the rest of her day not giving it a second thought however that comment has remained with me 14 years later, and I can still recall how it made me feel.

My final thoughts on this are that we never know what each other are dealing with in the background or behind closed doors. So try and be kind to one another. Your words and actions could make someone feel heard, appreciated and accepted. Your words could even save a life.

Dawn http://www.twitter.com/DawnMarr20

#SmallActionsBigChanges

There is many in each one of us.

Admittedly when I finally sat down to write my blog, I had conflicting ideas of what I wanted to write about. But when I reflect on my nursing journey, it does take me back to my first week at university. During induction, we had nursing lecturers come and tell us that we had entered a profession that would see us earn many connections for life. Although sceptical, but hopeful, at the time, I am now a firm believer of this notion. I have ventured in many jobs before nursing, and I have yet to feel as connected as I have while I have been on my nursing journey. Let me explain!

A student nurse must go through three or four years of training and needless to say these years are some of the most challenging years that most of us experience. But nobody tells you that when you start your nursing course, life will not stop and will keep happening regardless.  As tough as it has been there has always been another student nurse or nurse that I can speak to regardless of where they are studying and whether we are complete strangers. We all seem to have similar experiences and personalities in that we are just so caring. Sharing my experiences is not only an honour but also a great privilege that gives me the strength to carry on, which always makes things a little bit easier knowing that wherever I may go, I will always find my tribe, “The nursing tribe”.

Training as a nurse has changed me; finding a voice, not only for myself but has also taught me how to be there for others, and sometimes this just requires listening. So when I talk about #smallactionsbigchanges, this reflects exactly that. The small actions taken by my fellow nursing students and nurses alike have made a big change in my life.

During this Covid pandemic, the fact that there were so many of us facing the same giant gave me the strength to continue, because I saw such wonderful examples of people coming together to fight a common enemy. Small actions such as checking on your colleagues, connecting on social media, and hearing about all these wonderful things that others are doing only gives me more strength to carry on. I say carry on because many of us are struggling with the stress that comes with working during the pandemic and trust me, I cannot count how many sleepless nights I have had due to this.

So what’s my advice? Just keep helping each other out to get through that shift, lost patient, or recovery, because the more of you, the less the burden it is. These acts of kindness resonate with me, especially when I think of the ones we have lost during this time, and the people they’ve left behind.

Often, I think of them and hope that their loved ones have people stepping up to help like the people they lost stepped up. The act of kindness that got a patient through the worst time of their lives, the nurse who held a hand when needed and continued to give the love and care that comes with nursing.

So, every day let us ask ourselves what small action you took to make a big change in somebody else’s life today. The more of us that do it, the more bearable life will be. And please do feel free to share with us at @RCNNQN, because you never know who you are inspiring. Do not forget you never know who needs it somewhere in this world at that very moment you took the step to share. In turn, if you ever feel down, reach out! You have the whole nursing tribe behind you.

Gloria http://www.twitter.com/gloria_sikapite

#SmallActionsBigChanges

Take Time to Look at You…

Working in healthcare can be incredibly stressful for anyone and often everyone, add into it newly registered nurse wobbles, winter pressures, a global pandemic and of course Christmas stress.

Christmas is a magical time, a time which also often goes hand in hand with financial worries and maybe the guilt of working away from loved ones. This year I am working on Christmas Day, I am happy about it though, actually. I’m looking forward to it. Nobody wants to be in hospital, let alone over Christmas!! So, we need to make the best of it better yet, I’m choosing to be positive about it.  I’ll have Christmas morning at home with my family, so I’m not missing out altogether. 

I feel there is a lot of tension in the air, the hustle and bustle of people trying to get organised. Covid-19 is having a detrimental impact upon already stretched staffing levels. Management is stressed trying to cover shifts, patients are sad and angry because they want to get home for Christmas, staff are stressed trying to organise and facilitate discharges and where discharges aren’t possible, we feel sad and guilty for our patients and for their loved ones. It can be difficult not to take this stuff home. When we don’t talk about how we are feeling, really feeling, it stays in our hearts and in our heads. That stuff can get heavy. We can be left a little bit vulnerable to negative thoughts, like feeling rubbish, not good enough or that we’re letting people down all the time.

Nurses are often described as being resilient, to me that means strength, tough and will handle whatever comes our way. But, often then showing that maybe we are not ok and not handling the situation well, would then feel like a weakness?  Sometimes, I think when will my resilience arrive – as if it’s a bus I’m waiting for to catch into town. Too busy looking at things I cannot control or change and it’s frustrating, and often I feel helpless.  So looking further into resilience (for the record, I did not google ‘how to be more resilient’…ok maybe I did) I came across this poem by Alex Elle and I think it’s worth a wee read…

Look at you

Still standing

After being

Knocked down

And thrown out.

Look at you

Still growing

After being

Picked and plucked

And prodded out of

Your home.

Look at you

Still dancing

And singing

After being

Defeated and

Disassembled.

Look at you, love.

Still here and hopeful

After it all.

This really struck a chord with me. I try to  choose positivity in all situations and sometimes it can be a very difficult choice –  but it reaps so much more. So, take time yourself to look at how well your are doing and how far you have come.  At some point amongst all this mayhem, look at you, look at you, and be kind. Tell yourself well done and give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve earned it.

Catherine http://www.twitter.com/caitlin1888

#SmallChangesBigActions

Gratitude.

I thought I would write about a small action that I do which creates big changes in my own life for the #SmallActionsBigChanges challenge. As we know, when times are tough, it’s important to look after ourselves as well as our patients and colleagues. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but self-care really is not selfish; if you crumble, so will your ability to help others. In essence, this action also creates a lot of positivity, which is what we at RCNNQN are trying to achieve with this series of blogs.

The small action I am talking about is practising gratitude. Every morning, shortly after I wake up, I either write or say out loud three things that I am grateful for. It’s a simple thing and takes about three mins. The idea is, the more you practice gratitude the more you will be able to fully enjoy positive feelings and combat negative ones. It is suggested that the more you consciously consider what you are grateful for, the more you will notice these positive things in everyday life. Through this greater sense of gratitude and positivity, you increase your feelings of self-worth, become more resilient and have stronger relationships.

Why don’t you give it a go? You could practice gratitude solo, with your partner over a nice cup of tea, or with the whole family over the breakfast table. You could be grateful for everyday things, something grand, something exciting, or something abstract. It really doesn’t matter what you focus on. Soon you realise you have so much to be grateful for; the wonderful cup of tea you are drinking, the love of your partner, your freedom, the roof over your head, making it onto the register, your colleague who gave you her last biscuit, the time you have dedicated to self-care, the vegetables you will have for dinner, the light shining through the window, the fact that you are not outside in the rain.

If you really think about it, the more you will realise you have lots to be grateful for, and positivity is all around us.

Kendal http://www.twitter.com/kendal_moran

#SmallActionsBigChanges

Use Your Voice.

When we started this campaign, and I sat down to write a blog. I’ll level with you, I struggled with it.  How can I write a blog about being positive when I’m not feeling particularly shiny and happy?

The theme behind our campaign is that actions, however big or small, can translate into meaningful and effective changes for many, and you can translate this in many ways. Actions first have to be voiced, and I think my part of this story is to tell you how important your voice is.

Ensuring every voice is heard has been something of a mission of mine, and especially in the current climate, I still firmly believe in. Not just within nursing but in your life outside work.

There are still parts of my story I cannot yet share, but there are parts, I think, if I take a deep breath, and put on my big girl pants, I can. Not only to put my proverbial ‘money where my mouth is’ but in the hope that it proves a voice is a voice, no matter how small. The snippets I’ll choose to make this point may not be chronological, so you’ll have to stay with me.

Never underestimate the effect of your words on another. Your words may not always receive a response. But do not doubt that they are heard. Several years ago, a small voice anonymously posted a tweet on a theme of overcoming battles, in which she voiced how during her first year of studying to become a nurse she had become a single parent since leaving an abusive relationship after nine years, and how she was thankful to be nearing her third year. The outpouring of voices and support from this tweet was overwhelming and motivated the anonymous tweeter to believe she could indeed carry on.

I know this: because that person was me. And this goes a short way to explain my passion for ensuring every voice is heard. During this time, I was not the loudest in class, not someone who would speak out. This does not mean I wasn’t passionate about becoming a nurse, about learning, about creating a better home life.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy and violins (because quite honestly, violins aren’t my cup of tea and it would be much more of a kick in the teeth than a remedy). My voice was small, at times barely a whisper, but it mattered. And the words of others affected me massively.

A team, whether that be an immediate work team, a friendship group or an online community, is made up of different voices and different personalities, and it is made all the better for being so.  These voices don’t all have to agree, but they do have to be heard. If we make this solely about work for a second – think about an emergency situation – you wouldn’t expect one person to take on the roles of the airway, breathing, circulation and so on – people’s skills lie in different places.

Earlier this year, I lost my best friend to cancer. And Covid robbed me of the chance to be physically present at her funeral; as I know it has done for so many this year. 

She was many amazing things, a loving wife, a doting mother to young children, and the most loyal yet nutty of friends, and quite honestly there are no words to do justice to how much I miss her. But I tell you this to share some of the last words she wrote before she died, which were read out at her funeral. She started, “I’ll probably bow out soon…” and then went on to tell those close to her that, after the sadness had passed -she wished them to support each other and help each other, and wished she could share with everyone the clarity that came with this diagnosis. That she found the strength to write these words is a testament to her bravery and courage. But again, I draw you to her words – Help each other.  Support each other. 

Being positive and making changes isn’t always about running marathons or conquering mountains or attending award ceremonies. It’s the smallest of acts that can make the biggest difference.

If we fast forward to a year after the anonymous tweet and said tweeter stood in a large hall, full of sparkling lights, well-dressed tables and talk of rehearsals and awards.  Feeling not so much a fish out of water, but a fish in a hot sandy desert, fins flapping madly. Feeling like the “fat stupid ugly troll” she had spent nine years being told she was. She was seconds away from turning on her heels and running.  But someone noticed.

She must have noticed the terrified looking woman backing slowly toward the door. Now she knew nothing of her back story, of the reasons why she was leaving, or even what she was feeling. But she came over, stood next to me, and spoke to me and took me under her wing. Incidentally, much later in the evening, I saw the same person win Nurse of The Year and sat amazed as they read out her name and a list of achievements much longer than my word count here, and wondered if she knew how much her kind words had affected me.

Now I skip back to the present.  Being kind to others, being mindful of their opinion, and giving every voice a seat at the table – we have to keep making this happen. You don’t know anyone’s back story, how hard someone’s worked to get where they are. And it doesn’t matter.

It’s the smallest of actions and voices which can lead to the biggest changes. 

If you only remember one equation for the rest of your life, let it be this one:

Small actions x Many people = Big Changes

Kayte http://www.twitter.com/kayte83

Let Me Be Honest with You

At #RCNNQN and #RCNStudents, we decided to start the #SmallActionsBigChanges campaign to counteract a lot of the recent negativity that has been happening on Twitter and social media. A lot of this has come from certain individuals, many of whom I used to respect. We aim to show that life is not all doom and gloom. Collegiate debate should always be encouraged; of course, it should. But we should never be nasty to one another. We are professionals. And I have never witnessed a profession tear themselves apart quite as much as nurses. Why do we do this? We should be empowering one another, no?

However, I am not going to lie. When I found out that we were doing this campaign and series of blogs, I was filled with trepidation. Now, this is not because I do not think I perform small actions every day (time and staff limiting), which make big changes to both the patients and families who are under my care and to my team. Because I do, or at least I always try to. After all, this is the reason I got into nursing. But that is my job. I am paid to do this (not well enough, but that’s another story!) And anyone who knows me, or follows me on social media, knows I live and breathe nursing, but that is not always healthy. And at times, I do struggle to switch off and leave my job behind me when I get home. I think 2020 and beginning as a newly registered nurse, particularly in a coronavirus hub during a global pandemic has intensified this.

But what I have noticed, and the reason for my blog title is I know that I am not always the best at performing small actions that make big changes to those in my personal life. Because our job as nurses is stressful; being a newly registered nurse is stressful. So is commencing a part-time, distance-learning Master of Public Health in my first year, as well as launching a nursing podcast with one of my best friends, in addition to continuing the voluntary roles I perform for the Royal College of Nursing. Together, all of these leave me feeling spent: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

What this means, is I do not always have the capacity left to appreciate the people who matter to me most: my wonderful fiancé, my beautiful, supportive family, my friends, and even my gorgeous little Frenchie, Dobby. I can be grumpy, short-tempered, and at times, downright unappreciative and rude to them. And that is just not on. These people do so much for me without having to be asked. And I genuinely feel like I do not deserve them. I have tears in my eyes writing this because I have realised just how much I have let them down. I must try harder. Collectively, these people are amazing; they are selfless, giving, and do so much for me. And I need to appreciate the small actions they make, which make big changes to improve my life. What upsets me most is how much I have missed my gorgeous niece Elliott growing up this year (she’s 22 months old) and seeing my two grans, both of whom are not in great health, but I do realise 2020 has had a lot to do with this. But I could have called them more, FaceTimed or Skyped. And I will.

Saying that, I do not want this blog to be negative, tearing myself to pieces is not going to make me feel any better. And that is not the point of this blog series. But what I do want to highlight, is be the change. You can make a difference! And that is what I plan to do. I will still keep being the nurse that I know I am, but I will leave myself the reserve to be the fiancé, son, brother, uncle, grandson, and friend my loved ones deserve.

I want to leave you on a funny note; there was one small change that made a big action this week. I was so tired on the bus, heading to my third long day of four, and was sitting with my legs crossed, so got pins and needles. I thought, if I stamp my feet as I walk off the bus surely the feeling will come back. But, alas, no. I quite literally fell off the bus and face-planted onto the ground. I was okay, don’t worry. But the generosity of the strangers who came rushing over to make sure I was not hurt was genuinely touching.

So, if I can teach you one thing; and let’s be honest, who I am I to teach you anything, is keep being the nurse you are but make more effort to make small actions that will lead to big changes. In fact, after I finish typing this, I am going to pick up the phone and call my grans and my best friend who is expecting twins. How exciting!

P.s my New Year’s resolution is definitely to say no more, which is hard when you are a natural people pleaser.

Craig http://www.twitter.com/CraigDavidson85

#SmallActionsBigChanges

Just a minute.

As a member of the RCN Students’ Committee and team member of RCNNQN, writing blogs to share is not a skill that comes easily to me. I was wracking my brains to think of an example that I could give to show “Small Actions = Big Changes”. I believe I have achieved a lot professionally. From since I’ve joined the nursing world, I have done my best to contribute to making the student life better, and now I do so for newly qualified nurses.  However, it was only after I checked in on a friend, that I really realised the impact of this new phrase.

It was a simple text asking how she was doing, but I was not prepared for the answer. Even though I am floored trying to catch up with things before Christmas day descends, I knew I had to call round to see her. She was a mess and physically shaking, trying to make a cuppa. I knew this was a woman at breaking point who needed help. I let her talk things out, and I just sat and listened. I just wanted her to know that I was there for her. Recently, a good friend of mine has started up a local counselling service, so I text her and was able to get my friend in to see them the next day.

The moral of this blog is that it only takes a minute to text someone to check in on them or two minutes to phone them and ask. We are all busy and preoccupied at this time of year, and more so in 2020 than ever. But for all it took to check in on my friend, now hopefully she’ll get the help she needs.

We need to look out for each other, not just professionally, but personally too.

If you are reading this, and you are struggling, please reach out to someone; or if you haven’t spoken to that person in a while, contact them. You never know how much it might mean to them.

#SmallActionsBigChanges

Lynsey http://www.twitter.com/lynseyf11