I can still remember the sheer and utter dread I felt in the deepest pits of my stomach during the weeks before enrolling on my nursing degree. Am I ready? Am I smart enough? Will I make friends? Can I handle it? Questions I’m sure we all ask ourselves. Slap a global pandemic on top of that and I was completely consumed by my own anxieties.
If you are getting ready to start, or have just started your nursing studies, here are a few top tips I can offer that I wish I had known from the start.
Connect with your peers
If there is one thing I couldn’t recommend enough, it would be to find your social group. My cohort is so big, and it would be impossible to get to know everyone, but we are also split into smaller ‘academic groups’ which we will remain in for the duration of our degree. We decided pretty early on to form a WhatsApp chat for our group, as a bit of a support network if needed, and it very quickly turned into my lifeline. I am not sure how I would have got through these last 12 months or where I would be now without my girls being that constant support network. There are some things that only other student nurses can ever understand, from your first code brown to the death of your first patient, your friends will be the ones that are there to pull you through your lows and celebrate your highs. Hold on to them.
Get involved on social media
One of the things I wish I knew about from the start was the supportive nature among student nurses over different social media platforms. You only need to search the hashtag #studentnurseuk on Instagram and you will find a vast network of accounts that are constantly sharing their experiences and just waiting to connect with you. I’ve connected with students and registered nurses from all over the country and overseas, I couldn’t have done that without social media. There is so much you can learn from everyone.
I grew up with the 7 Ps. Piss poor planning promotes piss poor performance. From day one you will be juggling so many different things, both in your personal and academic life, so it is important to get on top of your organisation and planning from the start. I would always recommend investing in a good diary, you will need it. Plan and prepare everything from assignments, study time, placements, budgeting, and even home life. Allowing just 30 minutes on an evening to go through your agenda for the next day to keep you on track will make the world of difference.
Find your learning style
Everyone learns in different ways, and you will learn in a completely different way to Karen at the other side of the lecture hall. If you learn by reading, hit the library. If you’re a visual learner, grab your markers. You are truly unique and there are so many benefits to discovering how you process the information that is presented to you. Learning in your own way is more enjoyable, will make you want to study, and make your study time more productive. There are so many tools out there now that can help whether it’s a good old-fashioned pen and paper or the more ‘tech buff’ approach with digital devices. There is something for everyone.
Don’t compare yourself to those around you
This is one of the things I found myself doing so much of at the start, especially when I started my first placement. I am a 33-year-old, mature student, and I spent a lot of time feeling completely intimidated by the confidence in the younger students. Nursing is so very diverse, and you will meet people from all walks of life with varying levels of experience. It is so important to enjoy and embrace the journey you are taking and the path that you are on, you are exactly where you need to be, and it will all come together in time. Comparing yourself is the biggest passion thief.
Remember your status
You will very quickly witness the reality that is staff shortages throughout the NHS, and I cannot emphasise enough that you, as a student nurse, are supernumerary and should not be included in staff numbers. You are not there to cover for Susan who has called in sick, you are there to learn. Yes, you can learn from everyone and there is no job that is beneath you, but there are also several nursing-related proficiencies that you need to achieve when on your practice placements and while ever you aren’t working towards these, you simply aren’t getting the education that you are paying for. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are constantly being used to fill in staff shortages, I am a huge advocate for this.
Be kind to yourself
Being a student nurse is physically and mentally draining, even more so if you are juggling it with work and family life. Assignments, deadlines, placements, and money worries are all very common concerns, and they can quickly overcome you and have an impact on your mental health. It is so important to treat yourself with the same compassion you would give to others because burnout among student nurses is, sadly, very common. Find what makes you happy, whether it’s a hobby, a bit of self-care, or anything that makes you feel good, remember to allow time to take time for yourself and recharge your batteries.
Enjoy the process
Lastly, enjoy the process. Being a nursing student is truly a privilege and modern nursing is changing day by day. I am so proud to be on the journey I am on, and you should be too. We are the future generation of nurses, and the future is bright!
For more useful tips, check out their Instagram, @studentnurse_sam_x.