NINJABETIC – ‘A happy, newly-qualified nurse’
The very first blog that I wrote for The Diabetes Times was supporting the Diabetes UK campaign, ‘I Can’ in which people with diabetes told the world about the achievements they can make while living with a chronic condition.
My ‘I Can’, three years ago, came just as I was approaching one of the most exciting chapters in my life, undertaking my nursing degree.
To say that I was afraid is an understatement; I had no idea about the world that I was plunging myself in to and I was relying on my resilience and drive to keep me afloat. I knew that the next three years would be tough, both physically and mentally, and that diabetes (at the time) was already enough of a strain, affecting me in both of these areas. However, my ambition to do more for all patients with long-term conditions made the challenge that I was about to face worth any knocks and falls that I would take.
My biggest fear was actually regarding stamina. As a type 1 diabetes patient, and the daughter of a nurse, I had seen how tiredness could affect a nurse. I wasn’t naive in thinking that nursing would be a walk in the park, but there was nothing that could have prepared me for the stamina that is needed in order to manage the daily demands on a nurse.
Diabetes, as we all know, is an ever changing whirlwind in which blood glucose levels tend not to stay still for very long and this can, at times, be very tiring for the person experiencing these fluctuations. Planning ahead was always very helpful, even if only for reassurance that I had a plan in place. However, I very quickly discovered that no day was ever the same as a student nurse, and that keeping on top of my diabetes would an even bigger hurdle to jump than ever before. There were days when my glcose levels were frustratingly high, even with the use of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring. However, I learnt from my diabetes management mistakes, I accepted that I would not get diabetes right 100 per cent of the time and I reminded myself on a daily basis of why I was a student nurse and what I could achieve in the future for my patients.
Burning desire to support and educate people through some of the toughest times in their lives
Reminding myself of this was the drive that I needed to ensure that I did the best I could for myself in order to give the very best care to all of my patients. If I was unwell I knew wouldn’t perform at the level I needed to, and what better motivation is there than knowing that being well in myself would contribute to other people getting better.
The second biggest challenge has come from others. “Won’t it scare you, looking after patients with diabetes who are ill?” I was asked time and time again. “Won’t you grow tired of diabetes?”, “Won’t it consume your life?” Yes, it was a possibility that diabetes would become too big a part of my world.
However, is that necessarily a bad thing? When you fall in love with a medical condition and have the ability to separate your own diabetes from the person in front of you, surely that’s a positive? When you have such a burning desire to support and educate people through some of the toughest times in their lives, combined with the empathy to understand just what it is they are experiencing, I see that as a gift. I can honestly say that not once in the last three years have I felt that caring for patients with diabetes was too much for me. I adore all of my patients and I feel blessed to be able to work with people who live with a condition that fascinates me every day; I never grow tired of it.
People have said to me in the past that I have taken on too much responsibility when it comes to diabetes and the work that I do, but I don’t see it that way. As a patient myself I know that the responsibility of looking after a long term condition is shared between the patient and the professional, and I’m honored to be able to take on a part of that responsibility. I would never see it as a burden on myself, only a pleasure to take the strain from another when they are in need.
Yesterday I was beaming with pride as I graduated from university, three months after starting my first position as a newly qualified nurse in emergency medicine. My previous worry over exhaustion was what drove me to work in one of the most challenging areas within a hospital and I have proved day after day that I can cope with the pressure, that I can manage my diabetes alongside every curve ball that comes my way and that I can do this with the best intentions at heart.
The added bonus is that every day I am able to care for people with diabetes who are able to help me to grow as a nurse, keep me grounded and remind me of why I took on the challenge three years ago. Not only that but these patients are unknowingly helping me to care for other patients with long term conditions as they teach me valuable lessons in chronic illness and how differently it affects people.
Diabetes can be difficult at times; difficult to live with, difficult to think about and difficult to manage, but it has opened up a door for me that I won’t ever close and has proven to be a wonderful gift. Without diabetes I would not be where I am today; a happy and proud, newly-qualified nurse.