Well, what made me first think about becoming a nurse? I know it's a stereotypical answer, but my grandfather got bowel cancer towards the end of his life and it was just seeing the professionalism and the care that was given in a community setting that really brought it into my mind as a potential career, something I could see myself doing.
The staff nurses were so knowledgeable, but at the same time, they lost none of the humanity that had brought them into the job. I find that balance to be so compelling as a career choice.
I did my nurse training over in Queens University, Belfast. From there, they have the general adult [nursing] intake. You're streamed immediately going in, so [you choose] adult, mental health, learning disability or pediatric [children's] nursing.
I was always going to end up a general nurse. I graduated in February 2014, waited for my registration to come through and Murrayfield House was actually the first job I got. I applied for a couple of different hospitals and wards, moved around a few of them. Just seeing Murrayfield, not particularly the home, but just how happy and well cared for the residents were, that really spoke to me on a personal level.
I think for me, the largest change was just the degree of personal autonomy and responsibility that you have to assume. Obviously, in a ward setting, where I was primarily trained, you had a team of other nurses and colleagues who were almost on top of you every minute.
Here, you obviously still have the same level of support, but you're much more self-reliant as a worker. You control your wards, timetable your regime. Everything comes back to you, although you can obviously go to another more senior nurse for support. That was a very large change.
The benefits of working in a nursing home? I think one of the chief benefits for me, one of the joys of it, is just from when you come straight through the door like I did 9 months ago, you can have a continuing relationship with service users, your patients, your residents.
You don't really get the same feeling, working in a hospital. You obviously do have people coming in who can be there for a while, but you can leave your shift and the next time you're in it can be a new bay or 6 or 8 people.
I just think that deepening relationship that you have with your service users is fantastic. There are some that I've known here for 9 months or so and I would say I'm on the road to becoming quite fast friends with. I think that can never be underestimated as a bonus and as a real happiness of the job. Other than that, I think it's been brilliant for boosting confidence.
When you're in a hospital, you always have colleagues who are there to support you, yes, but it's very easy to run to a more senior nurse for everything. Obviously, you have to know your limitations, but being here, it makes you a lot more self-reliant. There are obviously colleagues you can go to for support, with anything big or small, but it trains you to look to yourself first before you would necessarily look to a colleague.
As a new nurse starting, we have a 6-month preceptorship. It's a kind of training programme. Obviously, we call graduate [to do the job competently], but it's to allow you to specifically adapt to the area that you're going into. [It is intended to] give you the confidence in using all of your skills and all of your training, so I find it incredibly, incredibly helpful. I couldn't downplay it at all in how much of a difference it's made. It provides a kind of solid, concrete guidework moving through one area of competence to the next, to the next.
A lot of our service users, unfortunately, have quite a few comorbidities. They have a lot of conditions that have led them to require extra care. I think this idea that you're not going to see everything that you see in a hospital, it's a fallacy. We have ladies and gentlemen with some quite complex medical conditions.
You will have the autonomy to grow within a stable framework provided by your colleagues. You'll have the room to take on all the responsibility that you want, whilst still having people you can reply on. I would say, do it for the challenge as well. A lot of people are challenge overse, but it's only that way you can grow, so there is an excellent opportunity there to continue to grow.
We do have service users, residents, who come into Murrayfield for end of life care. And, even if they're not in the immediate stages of palliative care, they are here, perhaps with weeks or months to live.
I think on of my most rewarding experiences here has been admitting a gentleman and just overseeing the last stages of his life. All the care that was given, making sure that everything he wanted was in place, accommodating all of his family's and friends' desires and needs. They were flying in from far afield. Making sure that all the scheduling worked out and just letting the gentleman pass on with all the dignity he'd led his life with and everything that made him so fiercely independent and such a likable character. Everything that made him, him. Letting him leave our care in the same way that we'd continued through from day one.
Even though he was only with us, I think, for a span of about two and a half months, that really is one of tmy best experiences of nursing.