In the ‘Grad Firsts’ NurseClick Column, Stage Two Emerging Nurse Leader Emma Wright MACN provides personal and honest reflections on her recent experiences as a graduate nurse. The articles, which can be viewed in full here, are a great resource for those at the early stages of their journey through the nursing profession.
I remember, in the first week of my graduate (grad) year, one of my fellow grads shared in our group chat that she had a cry in the car on the way home from work and that it made her feel so much better after. Her story made me relieved that other people also felt overwhelmed. When my first tears came a few weeks later, I didn’t make it to my car…
I was on day three of working with suspected COVID-19 patients, feeling like I was spending most of my shift donning and doffing and completing tasks with very little time for providing quality nursing care. At one point after removing what seemed like my 50th gown for the day I snuck into the toilets and had a little cry about how overwhelmed I felt. I was completely embarrassed that I had cracked at work.
I could have left it there, embarrassed and ashamed that I was not coping as well as I felt I should be. Instead, I tried to take to heart what we are told to do all through university and reflect. It was not an immediate revelation but, in hindsight, a lot of my emotions stemmed from the pressure I was putting on myself to have a certain level of expertise and experience that is just not possible during your third week as a nurse! I was able to see that my own expectations can be my worst enemy and that no one around me was expecting any more of me than what I was doing.
I am sorry to say that, even though I have realised this, there have still been other occasions when I have cried at work. Unfortunately, I don’t have some great wisdom to offer you about how to prevent tears at work. I would suggest you find a good crying place (mine is in the fire stairs) because the reality for many nurses is that you will at times feel tears prickling behind your eyes. It might be because of an aggressive patient, a patient who reminds you of a loved one or just the fact that you are human and have other things going on in your life. What I can suggest is that after you have a therapeutic cry, don’t forget to take some time to reflect and think about the circumstances that led to that moment… also keep a stash of chocolate in your bag, it helps!