In my head, I have built up my first placement into a do or die challenge. The deciding factor. A confirmation that I made the right choice or the epitome of poor judgement. In my head it could mark the beginning of a life’s work or it could be another dead end. When I’m anxious, my head becomes a very dramatic place to be. Sleep becomes something I used to do. Ah 3am, my old friend.
As it turned out, true to myself, the first day was an utter disaster. What did I put on my to-do list for the day? Survive placement. Seriously Robin, you had one thing to do. One thing!
I passed out on ward rounds. My mentor left me with the drugs trolley for five minutes while she helped transfer a patient and I started feeling a bit sick. I tried deep breathes, my vision blacked out. I blinked and all I could see was black. I crouched down to get my head low. My vision cleared. Thinking it might be that the bay was hot, I got out into the corridor and sat down, head on my knees. My head was still spinning and my vision kept blacking out. The ward sister asked if I was okay, I told her I was blacking out, funny, sometimes when I’m really overwhelmed, my fear of people evaporates. She and another nurse helped me to the medication cupboard because it’s cooler in there. I collapsed as we stepped through the door. I can’t have been out for more than a few seconds, I came round while they were putting me in the recovery position.
The nurses took my blood pressure, it was so low the machine alarm went off and I had to go to A&E on a trolley and have a heart trace. Fortunately, it didn’t show anything wrong. I was however told to go home for the day. I went back to the ward to collect my bag. The ward sisters and my mentor were very sweet about it, mostly they were just worried about me. I suppose now I can ask all the stupid questions, because nothing is going to be more awkward than collapsing on shift! Placement literally cannot get worse.
I’m not sure what lead to the collapse, possibly a combination of heat, anxiety and possibly anaemia. The main thing is, it wasn’t anything serious.
Unfortunately, fainting on shift wasn’t something I could have prepared for. I had prepared for all sort of stuff, I had prepared for not getting on with people, people dying on my watch, not knowing what to do, not knowing where things are, feeling shy, feeling lost, constant noise, almost everything I could think of. But that is something that hasn’t happened to me before. Over the next few days it built up in my head, until, on the morning of my next shift, I got up, got dressed, even got out of the front door and then had a panic attack. I couldn’t leave the front garden. My legs turned to led and I could not stop sobbing and saying ‘I can’t’. My breath caught in my lungs, my teeth were chattering in spite of the warmth and my whole body shook. I ended up calling the ward in tears and trying to explain what happened.
I know my brain pretty well at this point. I know the problem is getting to placement, once I’m there, in all likelihood I will be fine. My link lecturer disagreed. She wouldn’t let me go in for a short day the following morning, which was the one day I could easily get a lift in. I felt so frustrated. Not going in only made the anxiety worse, because now I have to worry about making up hours.