After working as an enrolled nurse in my hospital’s Emergency Department for several years, I was eager to take on a new challenge and studied to be a registered nurse. During 2021 I undertook my graduate year.
I was fortunate to land my final new grad rotation in the emergency department. I was stoked to start my career as an emergency RN.
However, only a month into my rotation I suffered a setback. While changing a patient’s bedsheet (a task I could do with my eyes closed), I felt and heard a distinct crack from my third finger. I casually removed my glove to find a decidedly dodgy looking digit.
Working in the right place at the right time, I was quickly seen, x-rayed and diagnosed with a ruptured extensor tendon (the dreaded mallet finger). Oh, the sickening irony – I can still feel Florence Nightingale’s disappointment.
I was devastated – having been told I would be off clinical duties for 12 weeks in a splint. My thoughts immediately turned to how this would impact my progression and professional development.
Despite my despair, I was quickly reassured by my educators and managers who were eager to boost my spirits.
After a day of wallowing in self-pity, I returned to work and sat with the Educators who set about to help me reframe the experience as an opportunity to participate in parts of the service that very few new grads get to see. And with that, we began planning educational and developmental opportunities that I could work on during my impromptu internship with the leadership team.
From the outside looking in, many people said to me, “oh, you must be so bored in the office”. In reality, it was quite the opposite.
I had this awesome opportunity to see the other side of nursing so early in my career, and I took every opportunity as a valuable learning experience. Whether this meant undertaking audits on Cardiac Arrest Management, responding to clinical incidents or assisting the education team with a Rapid Antigen Testing rollout that proved to be quite rapid indeed. I began to develop a deeper understanding of the complex activity behind the scenes that allows us to care for patients out in front.
This time was filled with many proud accomplishments, like my contribution to the redesigned Emergency Department orientation manual. This project allowed me the opportunity to collaborate with a small team of very experienced nurses in a completely different way than I was used to.
I discovered through our meetings that with good orientation and support for new nurses, our working environment could become safer and more secure. We discussed openly and effectively the delegation of topics and actively listened to one another’s input, opinions and knowledge.
I was given responsibility for several topics, including our minimum standards of care.
At the beginning of my’ internship’, I was given an opportunity to assist the Emergency CNC in the reinvigoration of the ED minimum standards of care. After some productive brainstorming, we began work on a presentation that would be shared with all of our new starters in the department. This took the form of a narrated slide show. Despite my knowledge that no one actually likes the sound of their own voice that much, this ended up being a great experience and an opportunity I could not pass up. This felt like a significant accomplishment given my relatively junior standing as a registered nurse.
Now reflecting on my time off the floor, I feel my attitude towards the non-clinical impact of nursing leaders has changed significantly. While I missed out on time learning from patients, I was able to spend more time learning from nurses and gained some invaluable experience along the way. This isn’t how my year was supposed to look, but I guess that’s how it goes.
And one thing I have certainly learned through this experience is to find the opportunity in adversity. Even though it sometimes looks funny, a crooked finger may actually be pointing you in the right direction.
Emma Everett is a Registered Nurse at John Hunter Hospital, NSW
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