What second-year blues really look like

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*These are my own personal experiences and I am not expecting everyone who experiences tough times throughout the course to feel the exact same, tough times can and do occur at any stage in the course. Please reach out if you start to feel like you’re struggling or that you need help with anything*

I started second year on a high as my previous post details. But around halfway through I came down to earth with a massive bump. There were times when second-year felt like it was never going to end. October came and I was struggling to see how I would even make it to Christmas with all the work I had to complete. I had a number of assignments all due within weeks of each other and I did not know when I was going to find the time to complete them all to the standard I wanted to. Every day felt as though I was walking through cement and I couldn’t see a way out. I shut myself away, I didn’t talk to anyone unless I absolutely had to and I just played it down as having a lot on. I became distant and stayed away from social media (a sure-fire sign that there is something wrong with me!). I became good at pretending I was coping when really I was struggling and too stubborn to admit it. I would sit at home on an evening staring into space, I had plenty of work to do but lacked the motivation to start any of it. I made to-do lists every day and binned them, I just became so overwhelmed with all the work I had to do once it was written down that I didn’t want to face it.

I was stressed. Eating nothing or everything, there was no in between. I was either sleeping for a couple of hours or sleeping all day. I started drinking, not to excess but I have never been a house drinker. Now I was drinking in the house every night.  I continuously put off starting my uni work because the amount of it felt like a huge weight above me, I know that starting it would have been the best way to start to alleviate the load but I couldn’t find the motivation to start. I considered leaving more than once because I didn’t know how I would complete the work. I left a 4000-word assignment until 2 weeks before the due date and was then surprised when I received my worst grade overall. I was messing up my own degree and at that point, I felt like I didn’t care. I was numb to everything, I felt like I didn’t possess any emotions anymore.

Now, this may sound slightly dramatic but this is an honest account of how I felt. I want to explain it so that other people who may be struggling can see they are not the only ones. I’m in third year now and I would still not say that I am 100%. At the beginning of third year I missed a placement because my mental state was not in the right place to be able to attend, and I had to concede that enough was enough and I needed help. I reached out to my gp and she was fantastic. She told me about her experience with anxiety and depression and that she understood everything I was feeling. Having her listen to me and tell me she understood felt like such a weight off my shoulders and I began to see that I wasn’t alone, other people were and had experienced the feelings I was. There was a way to turn things around and begin to get back to myself. I am slowly working each day to get back to ‘me’ and it is a slow process but I have a fantastic support network who I could not be without 🧡

 My tips for other students experiencing struggles:

  • Reach out. It doesn’t matter who to, a staff member, a cohort member, a friend outside of uni. Reach out on social media if you have to. TALK TO SOMEONE. I didn’t for so long and I could have changed things sooner had I not been too stubborn to reach out.
  • Take one day at a time. I was looking months in advance and it was scaring me. I started to concentrate on what I needed to do in the next 24 hours and it really helped to focus my mind and stop feeling overwhelmed.
  • Little and often. One hour a day on your work is better than nothing. I started by spending one hour a day and soon I was spending longer because I felt like I wanted to do the work once I started. All from forcing myself to do one hour a day.
  • Keep a journal and document one thing you have achieved that day. Even if it is just getting out of bed (some days that felt like a great achievement to me). Use it to look back and find some motivation.
  • Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out. This was my problem, I felt ashamed to admit that I was struggling and didn’t want people to know.
  • Take time to yourself. If you need a day in bed, take it. If you need to turn your phone off, do it. Do not feel guilty for not replying or canceling plans, your own mental wellbeing is more important than things that can be arranged for another time.
  • If to-do lists are your thing, make them. They didn’t help me they just made me feel overwhelmed but I know they do help other people.
  • Check on your friends. If your friend is a quick replier but is now taking hours, or is usually a constant presence on social media and is ‘missing’, ask them how they are. Don’t take their first answer, keep asking. Keep checking they are ok and make sure they know you are there for them.
  • Organise social events. Having something to look forward to really helped to push me through the days when I didn’t want to get out of bed.
  • Open up to tutors and mentors. Even if you don’t want to discuss fully, just letting them know how you are feeling can really help and having someone else understand can make a difference.

I am only ever a message away for any student nurse who needs to talk/rant/ask for help.

Love,

T x

 

A year to go until you’re a staff nurse!

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Here are my tips for third year!

  1. If you have a dissertation/literature review to complete, try to choose a topic early on and find your papers. It gives you a head start and enables you to be organised with your work.
  2. Be aware that this year will fly! If you think your course has flown by up to now, third year really does zoom by.
  3. Start looking for jobs but don’t worry about having to gain one immediately. You have plenty of time to apply throughout the year and your university may provide you with practice interviews to gain experience.
  4. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. You do know what you need to know and anything else will be learnt in the specific area you go into. They say nursing begins once you qualify as that is when you learn the most of your knowledge.
  5. Start saving a little every month. When you finish your third year, you will have your first years NMC fee to pay – which is currently £120. Add this to the cost of graduation and any graduation ball that your cohort may have and it can be a costly few months before you start earning a full wage.
  6. Keep your portfolio up to date throughout the year. Potential employers may wish to see this and keeping it organised minimises the stress of having to finish it all before the end of third year.
  7. When on placement, take first and second years ‘under your wing’ if you can. This provides a support network for you all and gives you experience of being a mentor to a student ready for when you qualify. It also helps the first and second years to know they have someone who has been in their position to turn to for advice and support.
  8. If you have any worries or concerns, speak to your lecturers. They have seen plenty of students in your position and have even been there themselves so they know exactly how you’re feeling coming up to qualifying.
  9. Think about keepsakes from your course. There are companies who can turn one of your student uniforms into a teddy or a cushion. Frame your student nurse badge once you have completed the course as a reminder of your journey.
  10. Plan a holiday or social event with your friends to celebrate qualifying, this gives you something to look forward to and focus on throughout the year.
  11. Know what needs signing/completing in your OARs and when it needs completing by. If you can go into your placements with this information ready for your mentor, it takes away a little bit of worry.
  12. Do your research before starting each placement. Know a little bit about the speciality of your placement and the common medications used there.
  13. Reach out if you begin to feel overwhelmed at any point.

Let me know if you have any other good tips for third year!

Love,

T x

Nursem skincare review

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*DISCLAIMER* *AD*

I was kindly gifted these from Nursem to use and post about if I wanted to, here is my blog post review with a discount code and there is also an Instagram post.

About Nursem

Nursem was set up by Antonia, a paediatric nurse, and her husband Jonny after Antonia encountered problems with cracked and sore skin on her hands due to extensive hand washing. But this is a product with a difference: Nursem provide a promise – for every product sold they give a months worth of Nursem to a nurse or midwife who have been registered onto their waiting list (products are sent to UK health centres or ward addresses).

I have to admit that I am really lazy when it comes to moisturising my hands. And I know that I should do it regularly, especially considering how many times we wash our hands every day but I have never really considered the importance of this. I’m fortunate enough to have not experienced any problems with my skin due to handwashing but I know plenty of other student nurses/nurses who have. I am currently on placement and wanted to use the product for a few weeks to fully see any benefits from moisturising regularly.

I received the caring hand cream and the caring hand fix. I have taken the caring hand cream with me to placement and applied throughout the day, using the caring hand fix on a nighttime before bed. I didn’t think my hands were dry before but I have noticed a difference in the way they feel since I started using this product regularly. The skin around my nails is a lot softer and I find that I am not experiencing any dry cuticles which was an issue I had encountered before. The cream is non-greasy and does not have a strong smell. The packaging is simple but eye catching, you would easily spot it on a shelf in a store. The colours stand out and work well together.

I love the idea behind the Nursem promise and would encourage everyone to nominate a nurse/midwife or a placement that you feel should be on their waiting list!

If you would like to purchase any of the products yourself, Nursem have kindly set up a 25% discount code for you to use.

Enter FLAMINGCOPPER at the checkout!

Let me know what you think to the product if you do purchase some!

Love,

T x

*Book Review* Being a nurse by Lauren Philpott

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*DISCLAIMER* This book was gifted for me to review, I have previously worked with the publishers before which you can see here and here.

Lauren is a children’s nurse who qualified in 2014. Lauren runs a blog called Graduation to Revalidation which talks about how to survive your first 3 years as a qualified nurse and you can find her on twitter at @grad2revalnurse. Lauren wrote the book after looking for other books which described the way newly qualified nurses feel and finding there were none available.

Lauren writes in a way that is like talking to a friend or mentor, making you feel comfortable and supported. The book contains sections on how to cope with a bad day and first day nerves. As a third year student nurse, I worry about first day nerves especially as I am going to work in a trust that I haven’t had a placement in and this section of the book really resonated with me as I’m sure it will other third year student nurses.

The book is written in an informative way without using jargon and confusing language, containing hints and tips from Lauren herself on each section. My favourite section is how you know when you’re ready to progress, I have a career plan which I would like to stick to and this section was really interesting to read.

This is a book that would be good for all student nurses to read, especially third years who are close to qualifying or newly qualified nurses!

Love,

T x

*Book Review* Leadership for Nursing, Health and Social Care Students

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DISCLAIMER: This book was gifted to me to review. I have previously reviewed other books from the same publishers, which you can read here and here.

 

Beginning year 3 was daunting for me, especially after talking to my mentor on my last placement of year 2 about developing my leadership skills ready for my management placement in the second half of year 3. I really looked forward to reading and reviewing this textbook as I wanted to see if I could gain some tips that would aid my leadership and delegation skills going through year 3. The book itself is part of a new series of books called Essentials and aims to provide an insight into the world of leadership.

The book has a number of chapters, all focusing on different areas regarding leadership. One chapter focuses on theories of leadership, with the next chapter focusing on the skills and qualities needed to be an effective leader.

 

In chapter one, the authors discuss what leadership is and why it is so important in health and social care. I find this chapter a good insight into what the whole book will discuss and would be useful to use in any leadership or management module as well.

Throughout the book, there are scenarios which allow you to explore your own thoughts and ideas around leadership and how you would approach different situations within practice.

At the end of the book, there are full references used within the book which students may find useful for further reading and as sources of information for leadership modules at university.

In chapter 7, the history of healthcare and social care within the UK is discussed. I found this chapter really interesting to see how healthcare has changed and developed over time. The chapter also describes why having knowledge of government policy is important in today’s healthcare environment and I would suggest this is a must-read section for any student nurse, especially third years preparing to qualify and take their first newly qualified post.

The learning outcomes before each chapter are recapped at the end, which allows anyone reading the book to utilise each chapter and ensure they have understood the information contained within the chapter. I believe this book will help me to develop my leadership skills and give me a background knowledge on how leadership can be influenced by other factors and the skills needed to be an effective leader within my own career, which I feel every student reading this book would benefit from.

The book is written in an easy-to-read way, whilst containing a good amount of knowledge and information for students in any year of a degree course.

Love,

T x

Nursing isn’t all about grades…

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‘Your grades do not define the kind of nurse you are’ and ‘You do not need a first class degree to be a good nurse’ are some of the things I see on twitter on a day-to-day basis.

You know what? They are correct.

Grades do not define the kind of nurse you are out in practice, in fact some people are very open about ‘struggling’ academically but thriving out on placement. We all have our strengths. You also do not need a first class degree to be a nurse, completing the degree is what ultimately matters not the classification.

BUT….here is where I harp on about my own opinion on this subject.

I often hear ‘you cannot be good academically and out on placement’. WRONG. You can be good at both, without blowing my own trumpet I am reasonably strong academically and receive fantastic feedback on placement, something which is similar with many student nurses I know. People need to stop pushing this narrative where you have to be good at one or the other. You can be both, please stop saying that people who are good academically make rubbish nurses. And yes I have seen this more than once. It is simply not true.

Grades do not define you as a nurse. BUT there is no shame in owning the fact that you want to achieve a first class degree. If you want this and you know that you are capable of it, do not let anyone shame you into thinking you should not be talking openly about this. For those of us who already have a future career plan mapped out, it is important for us to achieve the highest degree classification we can, just as I’m sure it’s important to many others. I will not be made to feel embarrassed about admitting this because I will have worked hard to gain whatever classification I receive. We should all be striving to achieve the best that we can do, not just aiming for 40% ‘as long as we pass’.

People all have different academic levels, I can write a good essay but that doesn’t mean that I am more intelligent or better than another student nurse. I often feel ‘inferior’ in lessons because there are members of my cohort who know more about the clinical side than I do, based purely on our different placement experiences. Someone may know lots about respiratory conditions, having spent 13 weeks on there. I know very little because my placements have not included that experience…however, give me a cardiac situation and I’ll be on it. We shouldn’t feel inferior to our other student nurse colleagues just because they received a ‘better’ grade or know more about a condition than we do, we should be sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other. Acknowledging each other’s strengths and pushing each other kicking and screaming to the end 😂

We shouldn’t be knocking people down who have a plan in mind and are honest about this. We should be supporting everyone around us, regardless of end goal or future plans.

Nursing isn’t defined by grades…but that won’t stop me being here striving for that first class honours degree 👍

Love,

T x

How to survive long shifts on placement

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Comfortable shoes – this would probably be my number 1 tip for placement! Most ward shifts will be 12+ hours and there is nothing worse than sore feet when you’re on shift. I have Clarks Unloops and find them to be very comfortable, I wear them for placement and 14 hour shifts at my care home job and my feet are always fine. Some people don’t like Unloops, it’s just about finding what shoes work for you. Others recommend Sketchers Go Walks.

Compression socks – standing up for most of a 12+ hour shift can cause achy calves and lower legs, wearing compression socks can really help to avoid this.

Plenty of water – keep a water bottle close by if you are able to do so. Some wards allow water bottles at the nurses station or in a cupboard out of sight. If you are not able to do so, you are allowed to use quiet times to quickly nip for a drink of water. It’s important to keep hydrated especially on long shifts.

A good nights sleep – this helps concentration and also helps you to feel ready for the day. Try to get an early night before a placement shift.

A good breakfast – being hungry doesn’t help concentration or mood (I find this anyway 😂). Try to have something filling such as porridge or toast, this will keep you going until you go on your first break.

Ask your mentor for 5 minutes if you need them, especially on your first placement your mentor will be understanding if you haven’t done long shifts before.

Prepare uniform, bag etc the night before to stop morning stress – you don’t want to be rushing around in the morning getting all your things together and running the risk of forgetting something, prepare your things the night before and you can take your time getting ready in the morning without the stress.

Baby wipes and deodorant – you can use these on your break to freshen up and wipe your face on a night shift if you are feeling tired. Wards can be warm and having deodorant in your bag can be useful for freshening up as well.

You do adjust quickly – after a few long shifts, your body will start to adjust to them and you will start to find them easier.

Don’t over-rely on caffeine – this applies more to night shifts. It can be easier to think that drinking caffeine all night will make it easier to stay awake, this is often not the case. You can ‘crash’ and feel more tired , try to keep hydrated with water and stop drinking caffeine around 4am to help you get to sleep when you get home.

Speak to your mentor if you are struggling – if you are finding the shifts difficult or struggling to cope with 2 or 3 in a row, talk to your mentor. They can split your shifts up (where possible) or possibly spilt a shift so you can do 2 1/2 shifts instead of long days all week. Most mentors will be understanding, especially if it’s your first placement and you are not used to doing long shifts. Ward shifts do tend to be 12+ hours but you do have plenty of placement time to adjust to them.

A long, relaxing bath – I find there is nothing better after a long shift than a red-hot bath with plenty of bubbles and a face mask! This might not work for everyone but find the one thing that helps you to unwind after a long shift.

Mints/chewing gum – I always keep these in my pocket just to freshen my breath after a break (not recommending that you chew gum on placement, just to freshen your breath and then dispose before returning from break). You can even take your toothbrush and toothpaste!

Utilising quiet time – I know this may be rare on some placements, but if you do get a quiet hour in an afternoon use the time wisely. I like to get the BNF out and make notes on common medications used in that placement area, or speak to a patient with a condition you don’t know much information about – patients will often be very knowledgeable about conditions they have managed for years.

Let me know if you have any other good tips!

Love,

T x

*Book Review* Research and Evidence-Based Practice

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DISCLAIMER: This book was gifted to me to review. I have previously reviewed another book from the same publishers, which you can see here.

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I was excited to read and review this textbook as I have a big interest in research and love to be able to recommend textbooks to other students taking a research module. The book itself is intended to be a lead-in to research, and is part of a new series of books called Essentials.

The book has two sections, part one discusses research and how to understand it. Part two talks about evidence-based practice and why it is essential to healthcare today.

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In part one, the chapters include identifying a research aim, how to design a study, data collection and data analysis. These things should all feature heavily in any research assignment and this book explains them in a way that is easy to read and understand. Common research terminology is highlighted in bold, which corresponds with a glossary at the back of the book. The definitions are clear and concise, providing enough information for the reader to be able to understand and apply the terminology to relevant areas within their assignments.

In part two, the chapters include how to review evidence and then apply this to practice. The book ends with a chapter where the authors attempt to make their own predictions about the future of health and social care, I found this chapter really interesting and thought-provoking. It is also a chapter that you could use for some critical analysis within your assignments.

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I would definitely recommend this book to any student starting a research module or even to refresh your memories ready for your dissertations/literature reviews. The content included is everything I would want to know as a student starting a research module. The glossary at the back is great for understanding the research terminology, which can often feel like a brand new language when you first start reading research papers. There are also handy references which you can use to do further reading and enhance your critical discussion within your assignments.

The book lives up to its intention to act as a lead-in to the research topic and has a clear and concise style throughout, whilst explaining things in the amount of detail needed to fully understand them. A must read for any nursing or health and social care student!

Love,

T x

 

How to use Discord

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As you may have seen, I have created a server on Discord called the Student Nurse Academy. This server is for all student nurses and newly qualified nurses to get involved with. There are text chat rooms where you can ask advice and support on things such as assignments and placements, allowing you to receive real-time support from other student nurses. You can also chat socially with other student nurses from around the world! I know that many of you may not have been on Discord before so I have created this step by step guide on how to use it that I hope you will find useful!

  1. Create a Discord account – download the app on your phone or computer and choose a username (you can change this later on). Remember to verify your email to allow you full access to the servers chat rooms.
  2. Customise your account – you’ve verified your email address and now you’re good to go! Add a profile picture of your choice and connect apps such as Facebook or Spotify if you wish to do so! blog picture 2
  3. Join the server – you can join the server through the invite link, this takes you straight to the introductions chat for you to tell us a little bit about yourself! Your servers will appear on the left hand side of the screen.blog picture 1
  4. Start chatting! – join one of the chat rooms on the left hand side of your screen and write a message. All the chat rooms are text chats, except coffee club which is a voice channel. You can jump in there and chat with other student nurses, kind of like a big Skype call 😂 If you don’t feel comfortable using the voice channel, stick to the text chats! If the chat names appear in bold, this means there are messages in there you have not seen.blog picture 3
  5. Build friendships – the main aim of this server is to bring student nurses together and to create friendships. Asking for advice is important and a part of this server, but gaining a support network is the main aim. You can chat about anything you want to in the general chit-chat ward, from what pets you have to what Harry Potter house you belong to (I’m a Slytherin for anyone interested 😂). I’ve made many friends through social media and want to help make this a possibility for other student nurses.

Why not use Facebook/Twitter/Instagram like we are now?

I wanted to create an area where student nurses can just chat, a little bit like a Whatsapp group but without needing to share your phone number with ‘strangers’. Twitter/Facebook/Instagram require a little bit of work from yourself to start conversations, you need to post a status, tweet or picture for people to interact with, that’s if your friends see them with the current algorithms. Here on Discord, you can just jump into a chat and join in. Discord is a safe place where you don’t even need to divulge the university you study at if you do not wish to. Discord is easy to use and you don’t even need to receive notifications if you’re easily distracted like me. Pop in and out of the chats whenever you want to and interact with people. You can @username to direct a message towards a specific user and react to people’s messages. You don’t even need to download an app, you can just use this when on a computer through the web interface.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have!

Love,

T x

You must work on a ward…..

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This age-old narrative is rearing its head again and again. ‘I want to work in the community but people say I must work on a ward for at least a year’, ‘I want to specialise as a newly qualified nurse (NQN) but some say I should work on a ward first to hone my skills’ and such nonsense is heard and seen every single day in university or on social media. I feel that statements like this are dampening the dreams of student nurses for no real reason.

NEWS FLASH!

There is no reason to work on a general medicine ward first before moving on to another post if you do not want to. Yes you will develop your skills as a NQN and build your confidence during your preceptorship. BUT…the skill sets used in areas such as the community, in a GP surgery, theatres, a nursing home or in specialist areas such as critical care are very different to the skill set used on a general medicine ward. Contrary to belief, you will not ‘de-skill’ going into these areas!

So you spend a year on a general medicine ward and then move to the area you actually want to work in…and guess what? It’s like starting over again. You need to develop all the new skill sets and hone the ones you already have to your new area. Why not cut out the middle man and develop these from the beginning of your time as a NQN?

We spend a long and hard three years at university…why should we ‘settle’ for an area we know we don’t actually want to work in when we have fallen in love with an area that is right up our street? As a student nurse, or even a qualified nurse, the world is our oyster and we can apply to work in most areas now as a NQN, so if you have dreams of working in an area like critical care or a GP surgery there is nothing stopping you. There are more and more areas accepting applications from NQN now and I can only see this increasing in the future. If general medicine is your thing that’s fab, but for a lot of us working on a ward is not what we want to do and that’s fine as well. You are at work for a large portion of your week, why spend the time unhappy?

I am often criticised for wanting to go straight into critical care, I hear things like ‘it’s too specialised you’re not a good enough nurse as a NQN to work in such a specialist area’ or ‘why would you want to start in a place like that when you could spend a year on a ward first’. Working on a general ward is not for me, I’ve known this for a long time and it won’t change. Yes critical care is still a ward, but its a different kind of routine and style of nursing to general medicine wards.

Don’t be afraid to talk about where you would like to work, if someone attempts to shoot you down don’t feel like you need to explain yourself. The most important thing is finding the job that suits you and if this is in an area other than a ward, hold your head up high and know that you are making the right choice for you. Ultimately this is all that matters.

Nursing is not one size fits all and that’s the real beauty of it.

Love,

T x