So as a third year student nurse who will be hopefully qualifying in approximately 11 months (eeeee!) I thought it would be a good idea to hand down my advice from my 2 full years of studying for a nursing degree to those in the first year or those who are thinking about choosing to study a degree in nursing. I write this post as if I was telling my first year self this advice as I would have loved to read or for someone to tell me something like this.
1. Be confident. I suffer with anxiety and I found it took me a while to adjust to walking onto a ward and suddenly, people the age of my Mum and Grandma were asking me for help. Me! You are training to help others, whether you're a childrens nurse, adult nurse, mental health nurse or learning disability nurse, people will need you and you have to be confident in yourself that you can do that. This is your degree, no one elses and you really do get out what you put in. You wont always get everything right, especially to start with, but don't panic. You are there to learn, and learning new skills brings confidence. You will get the hang of it no matter how much you tell yourself you wont. Which brings me onto my next piece of advice...
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are not going to be expected to know everything as a first year student nurse. As you develop and grow, nurses expectations will begin to grow too and by that I mean by your 10th week of placement, your mentor will probably expect you to not still be following her around asking "what shall I do now?". You are given placements to learn and develop the skills you will need when you qualify and you are given mentors to help teach you these, so asking for help is never a bad thing. In a job like nursing, if you guess things you are not sure on, it could be detrimental to the health of your patient. Don't quite know which dressing to redress Bay 2 Bed 4's diabetic foot ulcer with? Ask. Don't know why Side Room 3's urine output is being measured every hour? Ask. The more you ask, the more you learn. My advice is for typical nursing knowledge such as dressings, size of catheters or length of NG tubes, ask your mentor how you know which one would be best and make a note of it in a notebook. Then you can always look back on 'How to measure an NG tube' for example.
3. Grab all opportunities. On placement, you will have so many opportunities to experience other members of staffs roles, such as physios, dietitians, OT's etc and this helps you as a student nurse develop your knowledge of the multi-disciplinary team. You may also get opportunities to work in other departments such as theaters under your specialty and I would highly recommend you take these experiences with open arms. It not only gives you experience of the patient journey but you also get to see things normal people never get to see - inside an operating theater! Even if a nurse is doing a basic skill such as changing a dressing or maybe a more advanced skills such as inserting an NG tube, ask if you can watch. In my experience, most nurses let you get hands on after 1 or two observations which is always a confidence booster!
4. Keep on top of your work. You will get periods of time where you are on placement working long hours and you also have an assignment or project to complete too. It can become daunting to think that when you get home after a 12 hour shift, you have to sit and write some more assignment. My advice for this would be to structure your time. If it's possible, try and get some of your theory work done before your practical starts, this way you wont have as much to do while you're tired, emotional and worn out from placement. If you have to complete theory work during a placement block, do this on your days off or if you work half days, do it on the other half of your day. This way, you're not exhausting yourself. If you try and do too much at once, your brain will fry and your work wont be the best you could have done, but if you leave it too long, you'll end up rushing it and your work will again be affected. Structure your time properly. Give yourself mini deadlines.For example, do 200 words by the end of the week. Doesn't seem as daunting like that, does it?
5. They're there to help. Lecturers, tutors, programme leaders, mentors and support staff are all employed to help you. It is their job, so you should never be scared to go to them for advice and support, especially if you are struggling in either theory or practice. They will be able to help. The best bit about being a student nurse in university is that all of your academic staff within the nursing department are nurses - they have been in your shoes! They're also usually caring, understanding and empathetic people. I would advise you to meet up with your personal tutor at least once a semester to update him/her with how you're getting on, and this gives you an opportunity to ask any questions or ask for help or support on anything. In my experience, if they can't help directly, they will always signpost you to someone who can.
That's my 5 main pieces of advice for new student nurses from the experience that i've had. It's okay to need help, it's okay to be in touch with your emotions, it's okay to have down days and feel stressed out but always remember that you are studying to be somebody who will change so many peoples lives. Even as a student nurse, you will find this. It will be so worth it in the end. Drop me a comment or email me if you have any further questions regarding this topic - i'm always happy to help.
Love Luce xo