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I hit rock bottom as an NQN. How many more feel like this?

It’s been a while since I have written a blog. Mainly because I’ve been so busy with being a newly qualified nurse (NQN) and keeping my head above the water – and this is why it’s so important to get support as an NQN.

Being an NQN can be lonely and isolating, even though it’s exciting. As a NQN working in GP, I know this first-hand. You’re starting a new job; you’re posting your first selfie online because you finally made it! However, that can all go downhill if you don’t have a good support network with people like your work family and old university friends, who truly understand what it’s like to be a nurse and can give good advice when you need it. 

Not only did I start working at the beginning of a pandemic, but I had moved area to a new workplace, with no friends. I didn’t realise how lonely it would feel, as I’ve always thrived on my autonomy. But I actually hit the lowest I have possibly ever felt. I started to question whether I’d made the right decision coming into this career. I was going home crying a lot and felt like rubbish. My mental health had gone from thriving to diving.

If it wasn’t for the amazing support from my GPN Student Nurse Network crew, I don’t think I’d have coped. Making connections with other GP nurses and NQNs makes all the difference. We have a WhatsApp group and virtual meetings where talk about what’s going on, how we’re feeling and support one another. I was also put in touch with another NQN feeling all the same things as me. It’s nice to know there is someone to turn to when I need it most. I’m usually that person for everyone else, so it’s hard to realise when I need the help myself.  

What also helped me was NHS England’s General Practice Fellowship Programme. I’m only just starting the Fundamentals in General Practice course after eight months as an NQN because it was postponed due to Covid. There are around 20 NQNs or nurses new to general practice – and they all feel the same way as me, so we can support each other. I also made friends with another nurse on the course who is in the same boat as me: just moved area, new job and no friends or family locally. If I started this course at the beginning, would I have felt better from the start? I think so…

And lastly, friendships. I recently met one of my lovely social media buddies for social distanced tea and cake, and a good natter, who lives not far from me. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised how much I needed that. She may have just saved the last piece of my sanity!

I’m proud that I got – and am still going – through those tough times and grateful for the people who helped me. I’m the most motivated, positive person you’ll meet – so if I feel like this, anyone can. How many others are feeling this way? How many people have left the nursing profession because of it? What is in place to help NQNs?

At the start, I kept hearing: ‘It’s ok, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed as a newly qualified nurse’ and ‘it can take up to a year to settle in’. But is this ‘normal’ and is this ok? I don’t think so. We should be thriving and keeping that passion alive, and more needs to be done to help NQNs.

Wherever you are working, whether you’re a student or an NQN, please get support if you need it. Please don’t just go with it and start to run on empty. And if you’re applying for a role, ask ‘what support will be put in place for me?’ at the interview If they don’t satisfy that answer, then keep looking. Because a good manager will have things in place to support their staff.

Keep being you and don’t go down with the ship – sail to the shore towards the sunrise. You are just as important as your patients, you are capable and you can do this. You have to be the best you can be to care for others effectively.

My inbox is always open for anyone who’s struggling: email me via my blog site or get in touch on Twitter and Instagram, @c_carmichael83.