Written by Gafsah Martin
Nursing was never a career path that crossed my mind during my high school years. Medicine, pharmacy, statistics, mathematics, and chemistry were some of the more common career paths that I considered following after matric. This all changed when I completed my job shadowing assignment in Grade 11… and when I received my Grade 12 Term 1 marks (hahaha).
Deciding to study nursing
Job shadowing a nurse was more of a “last minute option” for me as it was difficult to find companies that would allow me to job shadow someone in the fields I was interested in. But having the opportunity to actually follow a nurse around for the day changed my perspective of nursing, since I had only ever seen it from a patient’s point of view.
The reason I chose to study nursing was because I have always wanted to help others. It may sound cliche but helping others, even in the smallest ways, always gave me a sense of happiness, and I’m grateful that this career path has allowed me to continue to do so.
Ups and Downs of studying nursing
Ups: my favourite part about nursing is working in the hospitals, and making my patients smile and laugh. I never had strong communication skills but working directly with different kinds of people has not only helped to improve my communication skills, but it has also helped me build up my confidence.
Downs: my least favourite part about nursing is breaking the news to family members about someone they have lost. Since I am still a student, I am not allowed to do this myself, but I was always present when the sister-in-charge would do it.
It’s heartbreaking to have to deliver news like this because you can picture it being a loved one of your own and how you would feel in that situation.
Dealing with the emotions of bad news
As a medical student, we are always told not to become emotionally attached to patients. It was difficult for me to do this initially when I worked in the paediatric ward because it hurt me to see so many children who were critically ill. However, I have learned to refrain from becoming emotionally attached and I have honestly never had a difficult time dealing with the loss of a patient.
Studying nursing through the COVID-19 pandemic
Thankfully, I was not placed on the frontline during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and my last day in the hospital setting was 18 March 2020. For the past few months, I have been safe at home and have had to continue my studies online.
Having to study from home was a big adjustment and it became stressful at times, especially when you’re bombarded with work from all your lecturers at once. I’m sure we can all relate the most to WiFi/data problems and the infamous loadshedding. Luckily, we started returning to our medical campus from 14 September for our practical assessments. It was a different environment to be in and it didn’t feel the same to be on campus anymore. It felt like a ghost town; quiet and empty.
As much as I’m seeing and enjoying this opportunity to spend more time with my family, I definitely miss being in the hospital setting. I miss interacting with other nurses and the medical team, and hearing hilarious, interesting stories from my patients.
Challenges of studying nursing, and resilience in hard times
There have been many tough challenges during my journey as a nursing student and there are times when I feel like giving up and start questioning whether this career path is really for me. I constantly have to remind myself why I chose this path.
Besides helping others, I also chose this career path to teach others that nurses aren’t just “assistants” to doctors, physicians and other medical professionals (because this is what I thought of nurses when growing up). As a student nurse having worked in the hospital setting, I truly believe that nurses are the backbone of hospitals and healthcare delivery.
Accomplishments and goals in nursing so far
My biggest accomplishment thus far was pushing through and striving to do the best that I possibly could during the 2nd year of my studies, regardless of the various challenges that arose.
I have always preferred to set small daily/weekly/monthly goals for myself rather than have one or more big goals, because what happens on your life journey can change at any time. However, I want to continue to help people in general – not just patients in hospitals and/or clinics that I work at – and to make at least one person smile daily.
One of my greatest goals is to be the qualified nurse that I, as a student, would want to work with.