FNF Student Placements: Phoebe Carter

Title: Student Nursing: Balancing passion and motivation  

Hear from Phoebe, a nursing student who spent her elective placement with the Research and Policy Team at FNF during August 2022. You can follow Phoebe on Twitter and Instagram 

As I come to the end of a three week elective placement with the Florence Nightingale Foundation, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what this placement means to me, and what it’s shown me about myself- as a student nurse, and as a person.  

My time here at FNF has been full of incredible opportunities for both growth and learning. I’ve been mostly involved with the Research and Policy Team where I have been helping clean transcripts, attending interviews for research, creating case studies, and was even able to assist in a focus group. None of these things would have been anywhere near as enjoyable if I wasn’t being supported by the amazing Jess, Essi and Stacey, who were there to answer any question I had, usually with words of encouragement. I also met virtually with two amazing nurse scholars who I look up to greatly; Professor Greta Westwood and Dr Emma Wadey. I spoke to them both about my future in nursing leadership, and they were able to offer some amazing advice which I will always carry with me.  Other opportunities I’ve had include 1:1 MBTI coaching, attending meetings for the Early Careers Shared Professional Decision Making Council (and setting up their social accounts), and having access to FNF Academy courses.  

Basically, this has been, without doubt, the best, most supportive placement I’ve ever been on. I had so many invaluable experiences that I will carry through my career, in the sector of nursing that I am most passionate about, and I will be forever grateful to everyone who supported me through it. Despite this, my honest reflection, and the one that’s been taking up the most amount of space in my head for the last few days, has nothing to do with FNF and everything to do with myself, and is this: why do I have such  little motivation and energy to put towards a placement that means so much to me? 

Two months ago I decided to take a year out of university at the end of my current academic year. The decision wasn’t triggered by anything specific, I’m not struggling academically and my mental health was the best it had been for about 3 years when I decided to do it, however my course and my nursing was a source of stress that seemed like it would never end, and I was scared it would ruin my mental health if I didn’t make any changes. After a brief, teeny weeny, little mental breakdown at the beginning of summer my friend suggested that I take a year out of university instead of carrying on to complete my final year, and truthfully, I couldn’t find one good reason not to.  

I’ve struggled with my mental health in the past, and while I can’t put nursing down as the cause for its decline, I can confidently say that it has contributed to it. I started my course in 2019, and since then I’ve spent two years training in the middle of a pandemic, and one year training in the aftermath of it. As a dual field nurse, I’ve had placements in both adult and mental health areas, in the community and in hospital, and (unsurprisingly) every single one has been completely understaffed. In the meantime I’ve been actively involved in advocating for student nurses both locally and nationally, and have put a lot of time and energy into creating and advocating for changes to benefit student nurses’ wellbeing. And of course, there has been constant academic work that I feel I can never get on top of, and was especially hard to do when my mental health was bad. Overall, while I’m a nursing student, it feels like there’s very little time to be anything else, and as a result of that, it feels suffocating and never ending, and I think it burnt me out.  

I see nursing as an inherently passionate profession, and in the past I’ve found that passion has invigorated me and given me energy to work hard. I still have that passion, but I’ve run out of energy to give to it, and that makes me feel sad. This placement at FNF is genuinely a dream for me, but now that I’ve finally got round to doing it, I feel like all my energy has been used up and now I can’t appreciate what’s in front of me, or take advantage of the opportunities that have been so kindly given to me. I don’t blame myself for feeling this way, and I’m proud that I have given as much as I could to this placement to try and fully embrace it, but I do feel guilty about it.** While the last three weeks have been such an incredible learning experience, to me they have felt a lot like a chore, and while that is quite a common experience for most university students, it feels like it’s a transgression when you’re a student nurse.  

My gap year officially starts next week, after this placement is over, and I’m excited for the sense of freedom it will give me. I hope that this year I can use my time to learn about being me, about being an adult and about how to do  life a bit more effectively. I have other goals too; I want to learn to drive, and to travel, and I want to learn how to speak Spanish. Mostly, however, I hope that in a year’s time I can step back into my nursing training in a year’s time with the energy to feed and nurture my passion for nursing.