This post was written a few months ago now, but I wanted to share it as I want to keep all of my thoughts throughout my student journey here.
This weekend I worked two shifts as a HCA. If you know me, you'll know that I spent 4 years as A HCA on an elderly medical ward. I love it so much but as the patients had more and more complex needs and required a lot more physical care we got shorter and shorter staffed. I loved care of the elderly but we never had enough staff to do the job the justice it deserved. I had several stints as a patient myself and felt my care and compassion slowly being chipped away at and finding my health suffering as a result.
I left that job as I needed to put my health as my priority and started banking throughout my trust. Over the past two year I have experienced such a wide range of settings and really reignited my passion for this career. I had forgotten how such small things can make a difference in peoples lives. After around 18 months of banking as a HCA I decided to take the plunge and apply once again to become a student nurse.
I felt to some extent I couldn't do everything I wanted to as a HCA. Frustrated when I worked shifts where we were an RN down so meds were running late and I could do nothing about it. Ive always been someone who loves learning and so once I received the offer of a place I couldn't wait to get stuck in.
I dont think I was fully prepared for the financial sacrifice it would take going from working 3-4 Nights a week to living on a student loan! So this month I decided that I would sacrifice my weekends and work. It wasn't as bad as I had a few days off uni during the weeks when I could have some me time. My two shifts were polar opposites and had me questioning whether I have made the right decision to do my nursing degree.
Saturday was spent on a cardiology ward. Most of my patients were independent, some requiring minimal assistance. The staff seemed to have everything under control and everything ran smoothly.
Sunday couldn't have been more different. I arrived to the ward and there was nothing that rang alarm bells straight away. The ward seemed to be well staffed and at this point all the patients were asleep and the ward looked fairly peaceful. However due to shortages elsewhere in the hospital two members of staff were moved leaving the ward short. Not long after another HCA also left as she was unwell.
I started with assisting the patients to have a wash while the RN did her drug round. For the first time in a long time all of my patients were reliant on me to assist them. From the extremes of all care to the ladies that just needed help to wash their back. I felt like I was actually making a big difference in these ladies lives. One asked if I could take her for a shower and I did, helping her bathe while she reminisced about her life when she was my age! If you've never spent much time with the elderly (my youngest patient was 86) they have some amazing stories and I could sit for hours just listening!
My dilemma has come because while I got to spend my whole shift in direct contact with my patients, due to the pressures of the ward the nurses spent the majority of time in a drug round or doing paperwork. The conversation at the beginning of the shift centred around how they were worried for their PIN and how exhausted they were with the job. One nurse even confided that she wasn't sleeping due to worrying that she would make a mistake at work.
Thats when the wave of dread has hit me, have I made the right decision here? Am I going to spend the rest of my life wishing that I was a HCA again, spending a long time one on one with the patients. Listening to their stories while I care for them. Im not sure if this is a common theme and I would love to know if anyone else has felt the same way.
At the same time I know ultimately what the NHS needs is a good supply of dedicated newly qualified nurses to push up the numbers but I fear we are in a vicious cycle. I will be going back to the ward as much as I can to help out as a HCA but would I go back there as a nurse? More than likely not. Its a vicious cycle, to make things better you need more nursing staff, but as nursing staff are burnt out and run down how do you convince student nurses that actually this is where they should work.
I know first and foremost I have to work on building Resilience as my favourite quote says you cant pour from an empty cup, but I dont know what the solution is here!
Anyway, I am starting my placement this week so lets see how I feel after that ...