In her series on the early steps of a newly qualified nurse, Heather George, Critical Care Staff Nurse, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, firstname.lastname@example.org, reflects on changes in routine and in mindset
I am writing this from a sunny spot in the garden, with the intention of absorbing as much sunlight as possible before the next stint of night shifts, which start tomorrow. It's always a bit of a struggle when the weather is so good to think that I'll be spending most of the daylight hours in bed trying to block out as much sunshine as possible. That said, the change of pace during night shifts does tend to make up for it and usually provides some relief from the chaos of day shifts. I now acknowledge the need to take things a bit easier before a consecutive stint of night shifts, but I am still figuring out how to best prepare myself mentally and physically to make these nights as easy and stress-free as possible.
One of the most significant changes I have experienced most recently as a nurse has been that we are no longer required to wear masks. I have to admit that I felt a little apprehensive, not only because of the protection they provide, but also because I have become used to hiding behind them and using the masks as a bit of a safety blanket. I find I am having to remind myself regularly to look approachable or to ensure that the expression on the lower half of my face correlates with the upper half, something that used to happen far more naturally! Having completed a few maskless shifts now it really has become apparent that I have become a little lazy, because the expressions that I once made subconsciously are now requiring conscious effort to accomplish. I have also had a few moments where I have caught myself pulling a face, perhaps in response to a particularly unpleasant smell or just a particularly unpleasant person, and had to quickly adjust my facial features before anyone notices. Nevertheless, it has been lovely to be able to communicate much more effectively with patients again and to give other staff members a smile on passing. On the other hand, I was having a particularly smiley day recently enjoying the freedom of no longer wearing a mask and was horrified to look in the mirror after my shift to see that I had bits of dark green herbs from lunch stuck in all my front teeth!
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