I have completed two years of studying to be a registered nurse. This should be my third year, but I’m taking a year out instead. Ostensibly my gap year is meant to allow me to re-evaluate and consider what my priorities are. In truth I’ve already made my mind up.
This time last year I found myself becoming increasingly depressed and anxious about my degree course. I wasn’t enjoying it. My grades were high, but more and more I felt like dragging myself to class was such a chore. I couldn’t handle it.
My tutor suggested I go to see the school psychologist and discuss things with him, see if I could improve the situation. So I did. By the beginning of this year I’d started thinking about the possibility of taking a year out. Even considering it as an option was like a weight had been lifted from my chest. Suddenly I could breathe more easily.
I originally joined the nursing course for two reasons. Firstly I had nothing better to do with my time. I wasn’t having any luck finding employment, and there weren’t any other degrees of interest that I could study in English locally. Secondly I thought being a nurse could be interesting. I’d considered it at least abstractly before, but never particularly seriously.
The course started out well. I found it interesting. I studied, a lot. I studied beyond the work we were set, and it showed. I got good grades. Very good grades.
I guess the problem began with my first clinical placement. I felt like I was being pushed to be someone I’m not. I’m a listener, not a talker, and the staff on the ward wanted me to talk more. They apparently were under the impression that if I don’t ask questions at a rate of at least one every ten seconds, then I must be too unintelligent to understand anything about nursing.
I found that hard to understand. Why would I ask questions about things I understand? It seemed counter-intuitive to me. I did try to explain that but it wasn’t much help.
I did enjoy that clinical placement for the most part. Once I knew the routine I was more than happy to follow it. I enjoyed the routine and knowing what to do. That’s why I made sure to book myself in almost exclusively for morning shifts, because they had more routine whereas the afternoon shift seemed to be more of an excuse for an extended coffee break. I hated that.
My favourite part of the morning shift was the time after lunch. I was encouraged to find something to do, so I would inevitably go around the rooms checking the supplies were stocked up, seeing if the patients were okay, and avoiding the staff. I could spend the whole three hours between lunch and leaving time just me and the patients. I talked with them, in Finnish(!), and I enjoyed it. I felt much more comfortable with the staff than the patients.
There’s the other reason I didn’t badger the staff with questions all the time. I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I always felt that they didn’t feel I was good enough. There was one time that I had my mentor hovering over my shoulder getting me to do something she obviously thought I wouldn’t manage. When I succeeded, with relative ease, she commented that maybe I would make a good nurse after all. She seemed to be amazed.
Part of the problem is my self-esteem, and I know that. I did not, and I’m sure even now would not, feel that I had the right to interrupt the staff and pester them with questions when they were taking care of the patients. In any case I managed to understand the majority of what went on simply by observing and learning from what I saw the other staff do.
I didn’t think the placement was unsuccessful. But the main thing I took away from it was that I don’t have the personality to be a nurse. Sure, the patients liked me, and liked that I listened rather than blabbering all the time. The staff on the other hand… I know I could be a good nurse, a great nurse even, if I put my mind to it. But I could not handle working in a place where I am constantly being judged for my quietness. Where not speaking a million miles a minute is taken as a lack of intelligence.
Unfortunately the world favours extroverts, and finding a workplace that understands and appreciates my introversion is not going to be the easiest task in the world. Which is why I want to work with children.
Are you happy with the career path you are following? Have you ever considered a change of career?