Nicky Lambert is an Associate Professor (Practice) at Middlesex University, where she is Director of Teaching and Learning for Mental Health and Social Work. She is registered as a Specialist Practitioner and is a Senior Teaching Fellow She is also a co-director of the Centre for Coproduction in Mental Health and Social Care. Here Nicky talks directly to student nurses as they navigate their way through their training during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Hello there, my name is Nicky Lambert. I’ve been asked to put together a few thoughts for student nurses at this very strange time that we are going through. I think when you start a course as a student nurse you assume that things will smoothly go ahead, you’ll go from module to module, placement to placement, and you’ll come out the end and you’ll have received your goal. One of the really interesting, exciting, scary, fabulous, weird things about nursing is that you can’t predict what will happen. No two days are the same and certainly no nursing journey, no learning journeys, is the same.
I think what I wanted to say to you was a story that I heard when I was a student nurse, and it was something that really stuck with me and it was about the anthropologist Margaret Mead being asked what she thought were the first signs of civilisation in the culture. I think people assume you’re going to talk about wars or axes or clay pots, and what she said was the first sign of civilisation in ancient culture was a broken leg that you could see had healed and she was saying in any situation if an animal breaks its leg, it can’t get food, it can’t hunt and an animal just doesn’t survive a broken leg usually long enough for the bone to heal.
What Margaret Mead was saying was that a broken femur that healed is evidence that somebody was there with that person, somebody stayed with them, somebody picked them up when they fell, carried them to safety, tended them, helped them to get recovered. Helping someone else through difficulties is where civilisation starts, that’s where we are at the moment. We are certainly in a difficult situation, not easy to see how it will turn out at the moment, there will be lots of changes.
The learning journey that we thought we were all on is probably going to be quite different and it’s an opportunity to grow and learn and more importantly it’s an opportunity for us to be together.
So the reason you want to be a nurse, to help other people, to serve the public, to be part of a team, all those things are still same. I think when I first started as a nurse I wanted to learn and grow and be challenged and certainly that’s what these times are bringing us.
So just a few thoughts for you. One is: prioritise your own self-care, make sure you’re rested, make sure you’re eating properly and prioritise your family and your loved ones. You can’t keep drawing on your resources if you don’t have any, so treat yourself with the compassion and respect that you treat the public and that that will help you going through this time.
Also be aware that your colleagues are there for you, your lecturers in college and your peers and even service users and the public will be there to support you. You are doing a really important job, at a very difficult time, people recognise that and I think nurses, your colleagues, really respect you stepping up. If it’s something that you can’t do, if you can’t step up through health issues and through family issues, the other thing I would say is please don’t feel bad. That’s the reason we work as a team, we each have a time and a place to act. This is a long, long game. Do what you can. Support others where you can and step back when you need, to that’s why there’s so many of us and that’s why we stand together. So I hope that’s helped and I would say as well is – thank you.