The safety net

As students we get to experience opportunities inside a safety net. This safety net allows us the comfort to expand our horizons and experience to better utilize the knowledge and skills we are building to go to work in the “real” world. Being recognized as students gives us room to make mistakes that are part of the learning process.

“It’s okay. They’re a student. They’re still practicing; they’re still learning.”

As we validate our competencies, consolidate our skills and knowledge, the safety net begins to peel back, exposing us more to the real world.

I smile at the memory of many of those of my undergraduate cohort with their shiny new nurse licenses and how they were going to change the world with their passion, their knowledge and their innocence and naiveté. My heart ached and filled with joy when some of us met later after being in the world seemingly without our safety net. The hard lessons learned and the determination to continue and the adaptation from naiveté and innocence to some understanding of the real world and that change is in small steps. Their passion never diminished; their eyes still shined. They were getting comfortable in their new role as nurses.

Am I bereft of the concept of a safety net as a graduate student? I am comfortable in my role as a nurse. Despite being a student, I exist in the real world where each skill, each enhanced bit of knowledge directly reflects on my nursing practice. I no longer have the safety net of being a student. My safety net is there nonetheless.

The safety net that encompasses me is the knowledge I continue to gain and the confidence that I have developed with my experience. I not only thirst for evidence-based knowledge to better apply my skills to my chosen population, my future includes being a vehicle for change in that same population and my community. I do not stop learning. I do not stop building on my foundation. I do not remain static; for stagnation can kill a nursing career as easily as a tar pit sucked the dinosaur into its depth.

Remember, a safety net is not so much about catching the fall as it is about being able to stand up again on your own two feet, stepping forward toward the future. The safety net is about being ready for the opportunities that come along so you can grab them, hang on tight and make them your own.