The end of my grad year is fast approaching… like really fast… out of nowhere… and apart from wondering where this last year has gone and am I even ready to not ‘be a grad’, I felt like now was a good time to reflect on the year that was and share my final few thoughts, tips, pointers and major milestones. Let’s start at the beginning, since that’s usually the best place to start.
I have always felt pretty comfortable in the hospital setting (I have no idea why to be honest), so although I was nervous to be trusted alone with patients and be responsible for making potentially life-changing decisions multiple times a day, I wasn’t as nervous or scared as some of my fellow baby-grads. Having said that, the first few days and weeks you feel a bit like a baby animal finding their feet and looking hell clumsy as they do it. It’s messy, awkward and sometimes painful to witness – but if you watch it with a little sense of humour and faith that it will all be okay in the end and everyone goes through this phase, it’s totally okay.
It took me about a month or two to really feel comfortable and in all honesty, it was all the little things that made the most difference. Like, I used to get sooooo frustrated that I didn’t know the doctor’s names or faces or pager numbers or that I could never find anything in the equipment room in under 7 minutes. But once those little housekeeping things sorted themselves out, I could focus on the fun stuff – the nursing stuff.
I will never forget the day when I had my first ever (what I call) ‘proud nurse moment’. Basically, a patient that I had in the first few weeks of my grad year seemed clinically not well after a surgical procedure and it was handed over to me that it was just her anxiety. I did her obs and had a chat to her, then looked back through her folder to see what her obs were doing over the last few days – straight away I noticed a very clear trend (increasing tachycardia, increasing oxygen demands and increasing resp rate) and escalated my concerns to my preceptor – aka my grad mum. She listened to my concerns (she had a rough idea of what was happening with this patient as at this time she was still getting a handover on my patients) but said that she was pretty confident it was just anxiety. I gave her a bit of weird smile like I wanted to agree but I just knew something was up, so I said that to her. Being the epic grad mum that she was, she said ‘okay let’s go and assess her together’ so we did. My grad mum still felt like anxiety and pain could be the underlying explanation for her presentation, but I was adamant it was something else. Long story short, the doctors came, again tried to say it was anxiety and/or pain but with me being adamant it could be something else, they investigated further and worked out she had a blood clot in her lung (a very serious risk for patients, especially if the clot flicks off and goes to the heart or brain). My grad mum and I debriefed about it after and both she and I were very proud that I stuck to my gut feeling – even with more experienced people telling me not to worry – and recognised a trend (we’re all about trends in nursing), escalated and acted accordingly. I was and still am very proud of that day.
More recently I have had some super memorable moments – one being the day I wrote this post. I recently decided I will be leaving my current ward (cue tears because I seriously love my ward so damn much) to work in the cath lab back home in Cairns to save some money. I was thinking about a patient who I’ve looked after multiple times and grown very close to – hoping that she’d come by the ward one day before I left. I was also just hoping that I’d see her as an outpatient, because last time she was on my ward, let’s just say it wasn’t looking good. So today I was running around trying to organise all these things for my patients when I look down the corridor and see her – in plain clothes, looking healthy and happy. We gave each other the biggest hug and had a lovely catch up before she had an appointment to go to and I told her I had decided to leave to save money and go on my adventure (her and I had discussed my potential travel plans many times). On her way back through she came back past to say good bye. I almost cried. She almost cried. But we kept our heads up and no tears came out because that was her attitude about life – it’s all about appreciating the good things and keeping your head up in the tough times. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment and I truly hope to see her again, happy and healthy and not in our ugly hospital gowns.
Now enough of story time, I’ll share a couple of little tips I have for new grads before I wrap this little series up.
I know everyone will say this but it’s soooooo important and will make or break your grad year:
You are going to be nervous, make mistakes, not know the answer, be late to a shift, think you’re on a PM when you’re on an AM, make more mistakes – but you have to not be so hard on yourself. It’s easier said than done, yes. BUT! The more you just accept that everyone starts somewhere, and you basically are still a student for the first few weeks, you will have a much better time. I really struggled with this at the start – and was very hard on myself, but after a few weeks I realised I was learning a lot as I went, therefore, I knew more than I thought as every day went by, so it was totally okay.
A few rapid-fire tips:
And I think that’s about all! I still can’t believe my grad year is over – I still get those feelings/thoughts like I don’t know enough/what I’m doing/why anyone trusted me to have unwell patients… But at the end of the day, I finish each shift knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life and that’s what it’s all about.
I am genuinely so excited for you if you’re nearing the end of your nursing degree or about to start your grad year – this is such an exciting time for you!
As always, I’m always happy to answer questions so feel free to contact me here or through Instagram.
Endless love and appreciation,