The mentor that changed everything

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This post does not by any means suggest that my other mentors haven’t been amazing, because they have. I have been extremely lucky that every mentor I have worked with up to now have taught me so much and have always been fantastic to work with. There is just one mentor who changed everything for me.

Rewind back to the end of year 1, to me receiving my first placement allocation for year 2 and seeing HDU/ITU. I hadn’t been on an acute ward in my training yet and I was starting my acute experiences in one of the scariest places, A&E being another one that fills me with dread.

I spent weeks panicking (a common occurrence with me as you will know if you’ve read my other blogs 😂) and worrying that I really did not know enough to be trusted with this kind of placement. I was going from year 1, in a placement that I was actually quite confident in due to previous experience to my first acute ward. I did not have chance to visit the unit before starting placement so I walked in ‘blind’. The first thing I saw was all the machines and I must have looked terrified because one of the NQNs said ‘It’s not that scary once you get started, don’t look so terrified you will be fine!’. I met my mentor and she took me into handover. From the first moment she was welcoming and kind, I instantly warmed to her and felt a little less nervous. I picked up the handover sheet and was convinced it was in another language, I didn’t understand half of the actual handover and worried that this would happen every morning.

I started my placement with 2 weeks on HDU, so the ratio of patients is 2:1. My mentor started by showing me the crash trolley and the airway trolley. We then moved onto the bedside checks and the observation charts. By lunchtime, I was feeling confident enough to record the observations myself and my mentor was happy for me to do so. The next week passed so quickly and my mentor knew so much, the knowledge she had blew me away and I remember thinking to myself that I would never know all the things that she knew. At the end of my second week, I had 2 weeks annual leave for Easter. When I returned, I was on ITU.

I asked over and over if I was doing ok, if I was where I should be and was doing everything I should be. I was doubting myself as I always do and thought I didn’t know anything. My mentor encouraged me all the time to complete skills that she knew I could do, she had faith in me and taught me things that have since come in very handy on my other placements. The day she told me I was having my own level 2 patient in ITU, I remember thinking no, no way I’m not good enough. This is not happening I will mess this up big time. And guess what? I didn’t! I felt confident in the bedside checks and the observations, she provided me with support and encouragement and actually made me believe that I can do this. The next few days passed and I became more confident with everything, using my own initiative to complete tasks that I could do. Then my mentor said I was taking care of a level 3 patient. WHAT?! No, no thank you I do not know what to do and the ventilator scares me to death 😂 Of course I wasn’t on my own I had her supervision but I was allowed to complete tasks by myself, keep track of medication times and assess changes to care based on ABGs. She pushed me to make decisions based on my own knowledge without ever making me feel ‘belittled’ if I didn’t know anything or needed to check something.

Before this placement, I had absolutely no faith in myself at all and thought I wouldn’t make it as a nurse. This mentor completely changed my way of thinking. She showed me so much support and encouragement that it was impossible to continue doubting myself. She taught me so much and I genuinely think that if I become even half the nurse she is, I will be very lucky. She constantly made sure that I was feeling comfortable and gave me every learning opportunity, involving me in ward rounds and procedures such as intubations and tracheostomy procedures. I felt welcomed from day 1 and completely fell in love with the place, which is partly due to my mentor and the faith she had in me. The feedback she gave me made me cry and I always look back on it if I’m doubting myself and feeling low. To reiterate, I can say that I’m very lucky and all my mentors have been fantastic and I’ve learnt so much from them all, but there was something different about this woman. In 6 weeks, she took me from a nervous second year student believing she would never be a nurse – to a semi-confident (only because I’ll never be fully confident!) second year knowing that she could do this and that there was a good chance that she would qualify! I now feel slightly jealous of anyone who receives that placement in the time we have left on the course 😂

Let me know any stories you have of mentors like this!

Love,

T x

Second year is the worst….or is it?

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I’ve seen so many posts about how bad second year is and how difficult it can be, I am 6 months into second year now and thought I would share my top tips on how to make it a little more bearable!

  • Start work as soon as you get it. Gather references for the assignments before you start them as this helps when starting to write.
  • Remember how far you have already come. Think about your first day and how much you have learnt/changed since then. Write a list of achievements from year 1 that you can look back on.
  • Plan things throughout the year. I found this helps the time to pass a little quicker if you have things to look forward to.
  • For research modules – make sure you fully understand the terminology as this will help you when completing the assignment.
  • Take everything you hear from previous cohorts about assignments with a pinch of salt, you may really enjoy something that someone else didn’t.
  • Placement pre-reading. Placements will expect you to have a little more knowledge this year so pre-reading is a must.
  • Take on your own patients. Even if it’s only one patient for that day, take responsibility for their care (within the limits of what you can do with mentor supervision). This really helps to build confidence and third year responsibilities won’t seem as daunting if you have been doing them through year 2.
  • If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Your personal tutor, another lecturer, someone on social media. It doesn’t really matter who it is just make sure you open up to someone, don’t try to manage through on your own if you feel you are struggling.
  • Get hold of a book on critical writing and thinking. The step up to level 5 writing can seem huge but it’s really about being able to say why something is done the way it is, wider reading and being critical in your thought process. I can recommend these two:
  • Take time for yourself. This is important in any year but do the things that make you happy. Self care can really help when you’re feeling fed up!
  • Chip away at assignments bit by bit. I start mine as soon as they are available and chip away, doing an hour or 2 a day if that’s the only time I have. Before you know it, the assignment is completed and it’s just the final checks you need to do.
  • Reference as you go! I say this all the time but with critical thinking comes more references, the last thing you want is to get to the end and have to find all 50+ of your references again to get them on your list.
  • Take on board previous feedback from year 1 and speak to lecturers about how to successfully write at level 5, they may have little hints and tips that will help you.
  • If you have to work around university, try to keep at least 1 full day off a week for assignments and yourself. You may even be able to join the bank at your hospital trust now, allowing more flexibility with shifts.
  • Try not to be disheartened if your first result is a drop compared to your first year grades. This can happen with the step up to level 5 writing, ask for guidance and really pay attention to your assignment feedback.
  • Try to save a little money each month, student finance drops in year 3 so saving a little bit during year 2 will help fill the gap.
  • Make sure your referencing is up to scratch, I have found this book really helpful for referencing (there is a website as well). Referencing tools are great but I prefer to create them myself then I can be confident that any errors are down to myself and you actually learn how to reference when you do them yourself.

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  • Keep up with your car maintenance, this may seem obvious but if you use your car a lot for uni and placement, wear and tear can occur faster than through doing normal mileage. The last thing you want is to be sat on the motorway waiting for the AA! (Other breakdown recovery companies are available 😂)
  • Email your assignments to yourself or save them on onedrive/google drive/a USB stick. Again, this may seem obvious but if your computer breaks or your work doesn’t save, you risk losing all the work you have done towards an assignment.
  • Keep in touch with your friends during placement, this kept me going through long shifts and weeks on placement.

Let me know if you have any other good tips for year 2 😘

Love,

T x

How to start blogging

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There have been some great blogs appearing recently on twitter, influenced by the 30 day July blogger challenge (@BloggersNurse) and the @WeNurses #70nursebloggers. I often see people asking how they can start a blog or for advice on what to blog about so I thought I would compile another one of my top tip posts around getting started as a student nurse blogger!

1. Choose your blogging platform

There are a number of free blogging platforms out there including WordPress and Blogger that are easy to use and can be personalised to how you want them. When you have been blogging a while, you could purchase a new theme or your own custom site address but for starting out the free ones are great.

2. Create a name

Try to choose something original and relevant to you. I chose student nurse and beyond because it describes where I am now and also allows me to carry on blogging using the same name once I qualify. There are some great blog names out there and you can really inject your own personality into them.

3. Personalise your blog

You can choose different themes and colour schemes to make your blog stand out. If you are a dab hand with graphics, you can design your own header or you can use one of the preloaded ones on the blogging site. I had my header designed by a friend and it gives my blog a personalised edge. Upload your own photos to give your blog a personal feel as well.

4. Create your first post

If you are a student nurse starting a blog, I would recommend blogging first about why you decided to start your nursing journey and why you chose the branch you did. This gives the reader an insight into you and helps to create a rapport with readers. Your posts don’t need to be too long and can be written in an informal style.

5. Read other blogs

Reading other blogs can help you to see different writing styles and what you may like to write about. If you see a topic on someone’s blog that you would like to write about, credit them within your post. It’s fine to take inspiration from other blogs, everyone does but people spend a lot of time of their posts so try not to just reword their posts to present as your own. Use your own skills and talent to create original content to you.

6. Don’t rely on a schedule

My advice would be to not put pressure on yourself when it comes to regular posting. Some bloggers post regularly and some don’t. Whatever works for you and your own schedule is good! Sometimes you can feel pressured to post once a week and it’s an added worry when you get busy and cannot manage to post that week.

7. Enjoy blogging!

I love blogging and find it really enjoyable to write, I like creating my top tip posts because I can give advice from my own experiences and if it even helps one person then that is fantastic! I personally stay away from commenting on political nursing issues but other bloggers comment on these really well (@Ewout1985, @CharlotteRCN, @JeepersMcCoy, @SchofieldRosie to name but a few). You can write about whatever you want to, but be mindful to maintain confidentiality at all times and to remain professional within your writing.

8. Don’t worry about the readers

It can take a while to build a regular readership on your blog, and even if you write a blog post to find only 5 people have read it it doesn’t matter! Write your blogs for you and if other people find them useful/interesting then that is a bonus. Blogging can soon become a ‘chore’ if you’re constantly writing to try to please other people.

9. Share your post

Promote your blog on social media – Twitter is a great place to share blogs! Some useful # to pop on your posts are: #nursebloggers #WeStNs #studentnurse

10. Continue blogging!

So you’ve got your first post out there and you really enjoyed writing it! Now carry on! Blog about your uni experience, your placement areas, your personal opinions, anything you want to write about.

If you want more information on how to start blogging, pop over to @WeNurses on twitter where there are some useful infographics to get you started!

Share your blog links with me as I love to read new blogs 😘

Love,

T x

Common equipment used in critical care

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Monitor – Every patient requires a monitor which allows for continuous monitoring of observations. These include blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturations, CO² and temperature can also be added on to the monitor.

Ventilator – A ventilator can assist patients’ with their own breathing, or completely take over the control of a patients’ breathing. This allows their body to rest and recuperate. The patient will either have an endotracheal tube or a tracheostomy. A tracheostomy tube allows the patient to receive full support whilst awake. If the patient has an endotracheal tube, they will be sedated.

Arterial line – An arterial line is inserted into an artery and this enables constant monitoring of blood pressure, through being connected to the monitor. They also allow access for frequent blood samples and ABGs. The arterial line can be inserted into the radial, brachial, femoral or pedal artery. The most common ones I saw in critical care were radial ones. The arterial line is sutured to the skin to keep it in place.

Central line – A central line is an intravenous line, inserted into one of the larger veins in the body. They are mainly used for administering medications, IV fluids are also given through central lines. Central lines are usually inserted into the jugular vein, but they can also be inserted into the femoral or subclavian veins.

endotracheal-tube-500x500Endotracheal tube – This is a plastic tube that is used during mechanical ventilation. The tube is inserted into the patient’s trachea, often the tube will be cut to a size recommended by the Dr carrying out the intubation. A bougie may be used to guide the insertion of the tube. Once inserted, the tube will be attached to the ventilator via ventilator piping. There is a cuff on these tubes that will be inflated to prevent movement of the tube, cuff pressure is checked regularly to ensure there are no leaks.

Indwelling urinary catheter – All patients within critical care will have a urinary catheter in place. This is to ensure accurate monitoring of urine output for the patients fluid balance records. Urine output will usually be recorded every hour.

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Vas Cath – A vas cath is a specialised central line that is used only for dialysis. Placed in the jugular, femoral or subclavian veins. I only saw one of these in my time on critical care and it was placed in the femoral vein.

 

Product_PicWindow_Carefeed-AdultNasogastric tube – This is a flexible tube that is inserted through the nose and down into the stomach. The NG tube can be used to provide nutrition via a ng feed and to administer certain medications. The NG tube is aspirated regularly to check if the patient is absorbing the ng feed and to test the ph level of any aspirations collected. The position of the NG tube should be checked and recorded regularly by measuring the length of the tube visible. Before using the NG tube, the guide wire should always be removed.

tracoe-twist-ref-301-tracheostomy-tubeTracheostomy tube – A small tube placed into a hole made in the neck, allowing access to the trachea. A tracheostomy is used when a patient is being weaned from ventilator support. These are temporary and will be removed when the patient no longer needs them. The inner tubes are cleaned every 4 hours.

Intravenous infusion pumps – Used for any medication that is administered through a central line. The amount of medication infused every hour is recorded on the fluid balance chart. These are the ones used in my trust, others may vary.

 

Let me know if you’ve seen any other equipment on your critical care placements!

Love,

T x

 

 

A day on ITU

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The shift pattern on ITU is the same as the shift pattern on HDU (You can read my day on HDU post here) :

Long day: 07:15 – 19:45

Nights – 19:15 – 07:45

Just like on HDU, there is no ‘typical’ day on ITU as every day can be different from the next. Below is one day that I experienced on ITU.

07:15 – 07:45 – During this time, we received a handover from the nurse in charge. We then went onto the ward and received a more detailed handover for the patients we would be looking after that day. This included details about why the patient was admitted and followed the A-E approach with a few extra sections. This handover also included any planned interventions for that day, such as x-rays or planned transfers. On ITU, the staff nurses’ have 1 patient each for the whole day (1:1).

07:45 – 10:00 – The nurse in charge checked the resus trolley and ventilation trolley to ensure all the correct equipment is present, working and within the expiry date. The staff nurses completed bedside equipment checks such as ensuring the equipment alarms are operating, checking the oxygen and suction points were working and checking the infusions to ensure there is enough left to last a couple of hours. In ITU, there are also ventilator settings and alarms that need to be checked to ensure they are working correctly. After all these checks, the patient was assisted with personal hygiene needs and repositioned. Pressure areas are checked and patients on ITU are repositioned 4 hourly, with pressure areas checked on each reposition. Everything is documented on the daily observations chart, an A3 sheet with information on both sides. All observations, fluid input/output and re-positioning is documented on there. The patients have a drink and breakfast if they are able to eat.

10:00 – 12:00 – Usually between this time, the consultants and nurse in charge will do a ward round. They discuss each patient and what the next step of their medical plan should be. Sometimes this will be a new medication or a change in ventilator settings, depending on how the patient is responding to their current treatment plan. Sedation holds may begin around this time to allow the patient to have time to respond, sometimes the patient is not ready to fully break from sedation so the sedation may be restarted and a sedation hold attempted the next day.

12:00 – 18:00 – Again it’s hard to fully describe what happens in the afternoon as every day is different. Obs are usually completed hourly on ITU, they may be 2 hourly if the patient is self ventilating and being transferred to a ward. Obs on ITU include fluid input and output. Fluid input includes any medications given by IV or through a NG tube. Fluid output includes blood taken and NG tube aspirations as well as urine output. Every hour the balance is recorded so we can see if the patient is in negative or positive fluid balance. Equipment checks are carried out once again throughout the afternoon to ensure alarms are still functioning correctly.

Patient observations are monitored closely and medications/oxygen can be adjusted accordingly. If a patient is responding well to ventilation, the ASB rate, PEEP or oxygen % may be adjusted to see how the patient manages. Extubation may occur if the patient is responding well to treatment but this will be planned in advance and discussed in the days leading up to the decision. ABG’s will be taken and the results recorded on the daily observation chart, as well as the patients medical notes.

New patients can be admitted from surgery, A&E, HDU or other wards.

18:00 – 19:15 – Daily notes are completed for the patients we have been looking after. The daily handover sheet is updated ready for the handover to the night shift team.

19:15 – 19:45 – Night shift arrive and the nurse in charge gives a handover covering the whole ward. The night shift team then come onto the ward and receive detailed handovers for their patients.

Love,

T x

A day on HDU

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My first placement of year 2 is 6 weeks on ITU/HDU. At Derby university in second year, we have two hub placements. One is for 6 weeks and the other is for 12 weeks. We also have a spoke placement where we spend 4 weeks.

The shift pattern at my placement is:

Long day: 07:15 – 19:45

Nights – 19:15 – 07:45

There are 1/2 days but I won’t be doing any of these during my placement block.

There is no ‘typical’ day on HDU as every day can be different from the next. Below is one day that I experienced on HDU. Other areas/trusts will vary and I would love to hear about your typical days on placement!

07:15 – 07:45 – During this time, we received a handover from the nurse in charge. We then went onto the ward and received a more detailed handover for the patients we would be looking after that day. This included details about why the patient was admitted and followed the A-E approach with a few extra sections. This handover also included any planned interventions for that day, such as x-rays or planned transfers. On HDU, the staff nurses’ usually have 2 patients each for the whole day (2:1).

07:45 – 10:00 – The nurse in charge checks the resus trolley and ventilation trolley to ensure all the correct equipment is present, working and within the expiry date. The staff nurses also complete bedside equipment checks such as ensuring the equipment alarms are operating, checking the oxygen and suction points are working and checking the infusions to ensure there is enough left to last a couple of hours. After all these checks, the patient is asked if they would like to have a wash and a fresh gown. If the patient declines, they are re-positioned and a skin check completed. Everything is documented on the daily observations chart, an A3 sheet with information on both sides. All observations, fluid input/output and re-positioning is documented on there. The patients have a drink and breakfast if they are able to eat.

10:00 – 12:00 – Usually between this time, the consultants and nurse in charge will do a ward round. They discuss each patient and what the next step of their medical plan should be. Sometimes this will be a new medication or transfer to a ward such as respiratory or stroke wards, depending on the patient.

12:00 – 18:00 – It’s hard to fully describe what happens in the afternoon as every day is different. Obs are done hourly or 2 hourly, depending on the patient. Obs on HDU include fluid input and output. Fluid input includes any medications given. Fluid output includes blood taken as well as urine output. NG tube aspirations are included in the fluid output also. Every hour/2 hours the balance is recorded so we can see if the patient is in negative or positive fluid balance. Equipment checks are carried out once again throughout the afternoon to ensure alarms are still functioning correctly.

Personal care needs are met as needed and re-positioning is carried out regularly if the patient is unable to do so themselves. Patients observations are monitored closely and medications/oxygen can be adjusted accordingly. Equipment may also be changed if needed, such as changing a patient from a nasal cannula to an oxygen face mask. ABG’s may be taken in this time and the results recorded on the daily observation chart, as well as the patients medical notes.

New patients can be admitted from surgery, A&E or other wards.

18:00 – 19:15 – Daily notes are completed for the patients we have been looking after. The daily handover sheet is updated ready for the handover to the night shift team.

19:15 – 19:45 – Night shift arrive and the nurse in charge gives a handover covering the whole ward. The night shift team then come onto the ward and receive detailed handovers for their patients.

Look out for further blog posts in my HDU/ITU series!

Love,

T x

Why do I blog?

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I started blogging around 17 months ago and originally I planned to use it as a journal to keep a record of my time at university. I didn’t think that others would be interested in reading my content. After releasing a few posts, I realised that a few people might actually want to read my blog, so I decided to write about things during my time at university that other student nurses may read and find useful for their own journey to becoming a qualified nurse. When I started blogging, there were very few UK based student nurse blogs available to read. Now there are many more available and this is great as everyone has different experiences and placements during their time as a student nurse.

I enjoy blogging as it is a good way to arrange my thoughts and write about the different things I’ve learnt. I like to write posts about the different placements I have so that other students who receive the same placement allocations can start them knowing a little more about what to expect.

My favourite posts to write are my ‘top tips’. I have had a lot of fantastic feedback on these types of posts and I really enjoy collecting my tips and writing them into a post that hopefully other student nurses will find useful. So far I have written top tips on being a first year student nurse, first placement and assignment planning but watch out for more!

Blogging is open to everyone and you can write about whatever you want to (protecting confidentiality and abiding by the NMC code is a must throughout). You can discuss your opinion on current affairs, health related news stories or something you have experienced on placement/at work. Blogging is also a great tool when it comes to reflection, you can write your thoughts down and share them if you feel comfortable to do so. You can write in whatever style you prefer and blogging is very informal compared to academic writing, I’ve found that writing blog posts can give a little bit of a release during assignment writing.

I would encourage student nurses and qualified nurses to blog, there are so many of us out there who would be interested in reading your posts and you may just fall in love with blogging like I have!

Send your blog links for me to follow and let me know why you enjoy blogging!

Love,

T x

Celebrating milestones

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Year 1 contained so many milestones in my student nurse training and I can only hope that year 2 will be just as productive. I can still remember the first time I completed a drug round or the first time I injected a patient.

Enjoy the times that you get on placement doing a skill for the first time, knowing that you understand the rationale behind it and can carry out the procedure effectively. Make a note of when you do them for the first time as they are things you can look back on throughout your training and career. Milestones feel like big achievements at the time because they are individual to you and allow you to build your confidence in the skills that you are learning. Plus in a way they make you feel like a ‘real’ student nurse because you are practicing what you may have learnt in clinical skills lessons. Don’t worry if people in your cohort seem to be learning lots of new skills and you have only learnt a few on your placement, this is not a competition and we all have times where we are able to learn lots of new skills and times where it’s ‘quieter’ and you are just practicing skills that you have already learnt.

If you would like to remember your milestones throughout your training, there are many ways to do so! The Happy Planner Company sell milestone cards which are postcard sized and allow you to write the date on them, plus a few thoughts about the milestone. CA6FB4AB-C05E-4A9C-A0EC-87FA87267230

You can write the date in your diary or create a scrapbook of important days. You could even follow @PUNCadp lead and create a Year 1 highlights poster (pop onto her twitter to see for yourself!). You may want to begin a journal or follow my lead and create a blog. Find the way that works for you!

If you like to share your milestones on social media, go for it! If you’re a private person and prefer to keep them to yourself, that is also great. Don’t feel pressured into having to share your milestones just because others are doing so.

These milestones are what help us to see how far we have come as student nurses throughout our training and I feel we should be talking about them more, enabling us to show the positive sides of nursing and placement days.

Let me know the milestones that you are particularly proud of!

Love,

T x

Changing years: Expectation vs reality

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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!

Love,

T & A x

The reality of being a student nurse

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I’m just starting second year and thought now would be the perfect time to describe what being a student nurse is really like. Being a student nurse is a mixture of emotions and achievements, I’ve had amazing days and some days that were not so good. But I have survived year 1 of 3! Have a read of the following realities that I have discovered during my first year.

You won’t believe people when they tell you it’s hard work. 

Now I don’t want to put anyone off but this degree is hard work. There’s no other way to describe it. That’s not me saying it is more work than any other degree, I have only experienced one so can only comment on this one. You will have assignments to complete and exams to revise for, it’s easy to get caught up in university and placements then before you know it, it’s the week of the deadline and you haven’t even started. During placement you will be doing 37.5 hours at least, with assignment work on top. Include any extra paid work you have to do around uni/placement to live and any extra reading/research for placement and you suddenly have very few hours of free time for yourself.

Shift patterns.

You will be expected to work shifts covering 24/7 care. You will be doing nights, long days (12.5 or 14 hour shifts in some placement areas) and you will be expected to do weekends. There are very few placement areas that are Mon-Fri 9-5 so if you had this idea in your head, forget about it now. I’ve had 3 placements up to now and none of them have been 9-5. Get a good pair of shoes because you will be on your feet a lot.

Social life? Remind me what that is again.

Some people may disagree with me here but you will struggle to find time to have a social life. I have been to events and nights out in my first year don’t get me wrong, but it has been few and far between. And every time I have felt guilty that I’m not at home doing something towards university work. Friends that are not on the same degree or at university may not understand how busy you are and that you can’t see them for weeks on end, I’ve lost touch with a few friends because they don’t understand that you really cannot see them for a few weeks because you’re snowed under and that it’s not just an excuse.

Even if you have healthcare experience, you will relearn the core care skills on placement. 

Don’t feel disheartened if you start your first placement and you are working with the HCAs for a few weeks. Your mentors will expect you to learn the core care skills when you start your placement, even if you have years and years of care experience. You can read my previous blog on the phrase “too posh to wash” here. You probably won’t be giving out medications or doing ‘nursey’ things for a while.

You will have doubts. 

There will be days where you wonder why you are doing this. I had a fantastic first year but I still had plenty of days where I thought about quitting and going back to full time work. These were silly moments and I wouldn’t have quit, but you will find out who you can rely on to have a proper rant to and who will talk some sense into you on these occasions. Your support network will become a lifeline so keep a good one around you.

You may struggle financially. 

My bursary and maintenance loan cover my rent and my diesel to uni/placement. I have to work outside of the degree because I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. I try not to work much when I’m on placement but this means I have to work a lot during uni weeks and annual leave weeks. The current student finance situation may be more positive but there have been months where I haven’t had money left over after bills/diesel. It will all be worth it in the end! If you can work around the degree, try to save a little bit each month to cover you in case there are months where deadlines are due or placement is busy and you can’t fit any shifts in. Try to join the bank or NHSP at your local hospital as you can then pick and choose shifts around your availability, Sunday shifts and nights are the best paid so you could do a few of these a month.

Prepare to be emotionally challenged. 

There will be days where you are absolutely elated, and days where you are so worn down you cry at the tiniest thing. You will experience many firsts throughout your training, some positive and some negative but each one will be a learning curve. You will experience end of life care and the death of a patient. You may experience having to be involved in CPR. If you encounter situations that overwhelm you or challenge you emotionally, your mentors are there for support. You can also talk to your peers and university support teams. It’s ok to be upset and overwhelmed, these are natural human emotions so don’t be afraid to show them when appropriate.

You are supernumerary. 

Please remember that you are not counted in the staffing numbers. If someone rings in sick or is moved to another ward, you are not there to cover for them. Yes everyone gets involved with care and the tasks on the ward, but you should never be used to replace a staff member that isn’t there. You are within your rights to speak to someone if you feel you are being used within the numbers and not as a supernumerary student. Most placement areas are fantastic and won’t pose this issue.

Being a student nurse is often fantastic. I have experienced so much within my first year and I’m excited to see what second year brings. Time really does fly and imagine how good you’ll be feeling at the end of year 3 when you are qualified and waiting for your pin to arrive to start as a NQN. If you do experience times when you are struggling, please remember to talk to someone about it. Don’t bottle those feelings up as you are not the only one feeling that way.

Love,

T x