Being a student nurse is often about change and particularly transition, time seems to fly and when you’re told in the very beginning that time will fly, you may not believe it. But the longer you study, the more you realise that this is exactly the case. And now in the face of dissertation and nearing the end of my training, first year seems so far away, but it has passed in the blink of an eye.
Through this process, I’ve had a lot of questions. Some of those times, I’ve been fortunate to be able to catch another student nurse on placement about what I can expect from my future in nursing, but part of the time — I haven’t known what to expect and it has felt like entering into the unknown.
Sitting down with Toni, a second year student nurse, we decided together to do a mini Q&A on what to expect, from the eyes of someone who has been in her position.
Q. I have achieved good grades in year 1 and I’m worried about keeping up the same standard in year 2 now that they count towards the final degree classification. Is there a big jump from level 4 to level 5 academic writing?
The expectations shift a little, level 4 is often a descriptive form of writing and this year you will be expected to analyse your description more, to understand why you are saying that, from what the evidence base is telling you and to consider why pieces of information can contradict each other. In second year, I learned more about how to effectively appraise my evidence, before I reference it within a piece of academic work.
It isn’t a huge leap, the word level probably makes it sound more scary than it is. You will be guided by your lecturers, the library staff are always available for support. Your writing won’t necessarily change, rather you’re developing on the foundations that you’ve laid in your first year.
Q. I had a brilliant community hub placement in year 1 that was mainly elderly patients and I wonder if this had put me at a disadvantage coming into the acute hospital for my next placements. Will I be expected to know so much more in year 2 placements than I did in year 1?
I had a similar experience of moving from a year in the community in second year, to a placement in ITU in third year. I felt like a fish out of water! I found it was important to communicate these feelings with my mentor, to explain that my memory needed jogging about working in a hospital as I’d lost track of routines and schedules.
Placement in the community does not put you at an disadvantage, instead you learn a separate group of skills to what you may now develop going into a hospital. These skills are highly applicable, they are still nursing skills that you can utilise in any placement. For me it really just boiled down to grasping the new routine.
You will be expected to develop from first year, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a gradual thing. Your mentors will guide you, you will evaluate yourself as you learn more throughout the year.
Q. Almost every time I see a post on social media about year 2 it is negative, are year 2 blues really a ‘thing’?
I think this is something that we often end up a bit blasé about. Being a student nurse is a journey of highs and lows. There have been times when I’ve felt frazzled by my course, others where I’ve just known it’s perfect for me. I think the blues comes from the idea that you’re quite a distance from the beginning, but also a distance from finishing, so sometimes it feels like you still have so much to do.
My advice for this is to talk to your peers, your mentors, your lecturers. Look after yourself, practice good self-care. I always found it helped me to reflect on why I wanted to nurse in the very beginning, always go back to the start. Second year is hard, particularly emotionally, but a cup of tea and a chat can go a long way.
Q. The workload in year 1 appeared to be manageable with assignments launched early on in the year with 5-6 months to complete them. Is the workload more than year 1?
On reflection as a third year, where I have had OSCEs and I’m working on my dissertation, I do feel now that my second year workload was more manageable than this year. However, the pressures do increase and you will be balancing assignments while on placement, but this helps you to learn time management skills that are ultimately essential to life as a registered nurse.
This was a really tough part for me! Balancing moving up a level, placements, reading further, they all took more time. I cannot stress how important time management is to a successful nurse education. It’s hard work, but with good management it is manageable. Lecturers will not set assignments to be cruel, they set them to meet competencies and they set them with due dates that are manageable. It’s about taking control of your time, your education and what you want from it.
I found that in second year that I was able to explore my own interests a little more in my assignments, being able to choose an assignment focus from several case studies and following one. This is a good opportunity for you to identify the gaps in your knowledge and fill them, often also helping you to discover what areas of nursing you have a passion for.
Second year is a journey, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Enjoy the time you have, manage the time you have, remember why you started and remember that you’ve come so far. First year is completed and you are entering the next stage of your education.
Good luck for this year!
T & A x