Paige shares her experience and insight since graduating from the BN program in 2017:
Where are you now?
I never expected to end up working in paediatrics. I thought I wanted “hard core nursing” (whatever that meant). However, after one clinical day at children’s hospital I knew I had found my home. I feel lucky, not everyone finds their niche right away and they have to entertain a few different positions before finding what is right for them. That is the beauty of nursing. We have a skill set that can allow us to work in a variety of settings, in varying roles, and we don’t have to stay in the same position forever if we don’t want to! The diversity of nursing has always appealed to me!
I currently work on CH5 a long-term/transitional/acute paedatric medicine ward where we see almost everything! It is challenging and I learn something new every day! I work with kids and their families from ages 1 day old to 17 years old. Our ward takes on children who have cystic fibrosis, eating disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and cerebral palsy, but we are equipped to take on whatever walks through emerge’s doors. Every day is a fun new challenge sprinkled with peppa pig stickers and popscicles. When I started nursing school I thought that peds was cute and fluffy but every day on CH5 proves me wrong. These kids are strong and resilient and as their nurses we have to be even stronger while keeping a smile on our faces and make them forget they are sick in a hospital even for a moment. That’s hardcore.
How easy was it to find a job after graduation?
I started applying for positions halfway through practicum and had secured a job in the child health float pool by the end of my practicum. I started in a term position and after 7 months I was in a permanent. I stayed in this position for a year and then took a term on CH5 and eventually took a permanent. I loved the float pool and I encourage any new nurse who is unsure of where they want to nurse to consider a position. You get to explore different areas and take care of populations you never expected. Through the float pool I learned that I did not care for NICU nursing and that I loved the challenging fast pace of acute mixed with long term patient continuity that I get to experience on CH5. The float pool definitely helped me become a more well rounded nurse and find a ward I wanted to call home.
How did you manage the responsibility of going from student to nurse?
Make friends with other nurses! I cannot stress this enough! Learn from your peers, learn from your seniors, learn from your mentors and educators. The transition from student to nurse is a lot less scary if you surround yourself with people you feel safe asking questions to and who will help you when you are feeling overwhelmed. I was pleasantly surprised at how willing nurses were to help because we hear horror stories of nurses eating their young. While I believe that this does still exist unfortunately I do believe that the culture is changing and I think that nurses are realizing by helping raise each other up we are all becoming stronger nurses and a more efficient team.
How did you build your confidence as a new nurse?
Again, through meeting other nurses who lift you up instead of tear you down! (see above)
Thinking back, what were the most important lessons from school that you took into the workforce?
In a nutshell, the best way to describe nursing is “nothing like what I expected”. When I started nursing school I thought I was doing it simply because I liked helping people, but I quickly learned that nursing is not only about heart. Nursing is a science, an art, a discipline, and a public service. Being nice is just a small sliver of the character, skill, leadership, and brainpower you need to develop and exercise in this profession. There were definitely many days in nursing school when I didn’t think I was cut out to be a nurse and even on my worst days as an RNBN I doubt myself. That is to be expected in a field that is forever growing and changing and I feel privileged to be able to learn from within it.
I completed my practicum on a pediatric unit. I loved my placement, but I had a very challenging practicum that tested me mentally and emotionally and I almost didn’t complete the program as a result. I had a difficult preceptor who expected more from me than I was capable of as a student; she intimidated me and made me feel unsure and incompetent. Fortunately, other nurses on the ward took note of what was going on and advocated for me on my behalf and encouraged me to speak with my practicum advisor. Ultimately our preceptorship ended and I was placed with 2 other preceptors who helped me rebuild my confidence and skill set and I graduated on time. I never regret the way my practicum journey played out; while I didn’t appreciate being bullied I learned valuable lessons that can’t be taught in school about managing conflict and maintaining professionalism. Practicum taught me that nursing is not black and white but a complicated web of technical and assessment skills and knowledge intertwined with teamwork, collaboration, personality differences, social inequities, and emotional burnout.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were a student?
It’s okay to make mistakes; being unsuccessful on a proficiency test doesn’t mean you are incompetent! You are in school because you are not perfect and you are learning. The best advice I was ever given in school was that learning is uncomfortable and if you are not feeling queasy at least once on a daily basis then you are not going to get any better. You won’t learn from doing things right; you will learn from making mistakes and getting feedback. Feedback is your friend! Don’t take yourself so seriously!
What piece of advice would you give to current students?
1) Take every bad experience and learn from it! There is a lesson you can learn about yourself and about nursing in everything that you do!
2) Maintain your professionalism during conflict. It is easy to get hot headed and say mean things but you will gain more respect from staying professional.
3) You don’t need to be perfect in practicum and you don’t need to know everything. Your practicum is a safe place for you to learn prior to being on your own.
4) Where you do your practicum is not where you have to get a job after.
5) Make friends with unit clerks. They know the ward better than anyone else.
6) Advocate and stand up for yourself; just because you are a student doesn’t mean that you are always wrong.
7) Get involved with your professional bodies like ARNM while you are still a student. It will open doors.
8) Get your assignments done early! All nighters suck!
9) When you feel like you are alone remember there is always someone else going through the same thing. Reach out to your friends, teachers, coworkers; they have all probably been there before!
10) Nursing school goes by way too fast! Enjoy it while you can!
Thank you Paige for sharing your experience and words of wisdom!