Being the new girl, FOMO and the joys of discovering 6.5s

Wed 13th Mar – by Liz McIntyre

They say there’s no growth in the comfort zone - which is handy really as I’ve never really felt comfortable there. ‘Comfort’ makes me immediately fidgety, it makes me look at maps of the world and to the continued frustration of my long-suffering partner, it makes me scour Rightmove as surely another change of address will make the fidgety feeling go away for a little while. It is probably the reason why my family described me as the Littlest Hobo for many years, and why my closest and most beloved friends warned likely relationship prospects that I was a ‘flight risk‘ (I had form after all).

If FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is still the word the cool kids use (and the fact that I’ve used the term ‘cool kids’ probably tells you enough to arrive at the conclusion that I am not one), then I have it. I have always had it. 

I’ve worked in the NHS now for almost 12 years in different roles and slowly the FOMO has grown. I am a person with a genuine interest in almost everything and everyone I meet and as a result I have spent time voluntarily working with porters, shadowing a variety of teams so that I can understand more about how a hospital works, I’ve been out with ambulance crews, had lengthy conversations with commissioners about cycles and processes as well as finding myself fascinated by what can be learnt by clinical audit teams. I love the NHS - and the people within it are inspirational.

A year and a half ago, I reached a point where the FOMO could no longer be ignored and, having spent some time working with the wonderful midwifery team at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, I set about changing my career entirely - a scary and yet completely exciting step in my early (ok fine), mid-30s. I was going to become a midwife.

I think there are loads of reasons why people choose to stick with what they know rather than make a change but the three biggies are:

Starting again from scratch is scary.  My gosh it is. It’s terrifying. I didn’t have science A-levels so before applying for my midwifery degree I had to complete an Access course. Four years is a BIG commitment and being the new girl on a placement is also really frightening. You find yourself puppy-dog-esque wandering around after a stranger, trying not to be a burden on an already stretched and established team. You discover yourself in the apparent chaos of a theatre being urgently asked to “pass over some 6.5s” and feeling like a complete prat because you have no idea what “6.5s” are (this is a true story and I later found out that 6.5s are gloves - the number relates to the size - easy if you know it right?)

BUT, strangers become colleagues, established teams become your work family and the metaphorical 6.5s become less and less. You learn something every day and you rarely make the same mistake twice. Scary is good.

The financial hit is too big.  This is a toughie. And it’s real. In my situation - there are no longer bursaries for nurses or midwives and the student loan amount is calculated based on your earnings from the previous year. For some people, this is beneficial, for others (like myself) it is extremely difficult. My first year student loan was calculated at £4,100 per year. I have a mortgage, a car, two children...oh and I am quite partial to food - my student loan would not even be close to covering my outgoings.

BUT, various funds can be accessed through universities to help people in difficult financial situations and I know a number of students with families who rely on these. 

As someone with an existing job however, I chose to speak to my line manager about continuing my current role on a more flexible basis so that I had a continued income. Not only did he agree to this but the support that I have received both from him, and the East Midlands Leadership Academy team more broadly has been a huge boost in my journey so far. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to develop and for the flexible working conditions that have been afforded to me. Both have made me feel even more loyal to the organisation, and more determined to do the very best job I can. Flexible working conditions (where appropriate of course) foster a culture of trust and honesty - I’d say this is high on the list of important ‘things’ for employees and employers alike.

You’re ‘too old‘ to make a change.  I don’t believe you are ever too old to make a change, particularly if it’s one that will impact on how you feel about yourself and how you feel about going to work everyday. 

There are a number of mature students on my cohort and we clicked almost immediately. We laugh about everything, we share the same frame of reference and we talk to each other about the juggling act of a degree and family (and everything else). It’s reassuring to know that others are in a similar position and I have no doubt that my friendships with these women, will be life long.

Lots of people consider a career change because they feel stuck, or uninspired, or bored. I felt none of those things. I have a job that I love, colleagues that I admire and a boss who is supportive and challenging. BUT I had FOMO. I realised that what I was missing out on was the opportunity to deliver care, and to see first hand that I had made a difference to someone’s experience. I want to be one of the thousands of people who work tirelessly every day to look after someone else’s most important person. I think that my decision to make a change will be one that my children will be proud of one day and I hope that from it, I can reassure them that scary is good, being the new girl is exciting...oh and that life’s 6.5s are never quite as ominous as they first seem.