I only occasionally come in contact with student nurses these days as my current role is now mostly to deliver training to colleagues. However over the past few weeks I have had a student nurse in one of my longer courses, on which we do not usually accept students. I made an exception this time for three reasons. Firstly, the student managed to impress me with his enthusiasm and drive to do the course, which came across with a courtesy and professionalism in his emails to me. The second reason was that one of his mentors, a skilled clinician and trainer, was co-delivering this course with me. She vouched for him and I knew he would have the opportunity of experiencing how nurses in clinical practice can be involved in training and can be very able educators. The third reason was that I knew my co-trainer and his other mentors would ensure opportunities for him to put his learning from my course in to practice in the clinical setting.
Since the student started the course I have not regretted my decision. He arrives early, always asks if he can do anything, is incredibly polite and has a lovely self effacing sense of humour. He tells me each week how grateful he is to have been given the opportunity to access my course and allows me to gently tease him by asking exactly how grateful is he? He works hard on the course, works to put his learning in to his clinical practice and is able to reflect on and synthesise his new learning with his current knowledge and skills. He wants to get everything right and works incredibly hard to do this, although this causes him some angst.
This week we both talked about our journeys to our current roles. Mine is a 31 year road of various roles, all of which have brought something to my learning about nursing. He has a shorter, but none the less significant journey through care work to becoming a student nurse. As he told me his story it struck me how others had seen significant potential in him and had offered him opportunities. What also was clear is that he holds a core, and unshakable, value of caring for others.
Reflecting on this experience I am struck by this young man, so keen and quietly determined to become a mental health nurse and, more than that, to do it well, to be the best nurse that he can be, for the sake of those who he will care for. I now see how well honed his engagement skills are and how he uses them for professional development and not for personal gain. I am also struck by how much I have missed working with student nurses and how invigorating their want and desire for knowledge can be and I wonder how we can reignite this in some of our now qualified nurse colleagues.
The tables have turned; I am now grateful to this young man for giving me the opportunity to work with him in one of my courses and for reminding me of how refreshing it is to work with student nurses. I see in him, what I think others have who have also given him opportunities have seen in him. I see someone who is worth investing in, as this will be repaid tenfold when he qualifies and where ever he works in his career. I am grateful to be playing a small part in supporting a future mental health nurse.