Making the transition from student nurse to fully qualified and autonomous practitioner is probably the biggest and hardest step to take in a nursing journey.
This is the subject of our research report on page 12. Throughout training, students will always be supervised, their thinking double-checked and their decisions rubber stamped - ultimately a safety net is in place.
And while there will be excitement at being able to make their own clinical decisions there will also be some fear, understandably.
The first time you see a patient on your own is probably a bit like the first time you drive a car solo after passing your driving test. Suddenly there is no one in the passenger seat telling you when to brake, change gear or switch lanes. The decisions are all yours - and if you get them wrong they can have serious consequences.
If you’re mentoring a student or supervising someone who only recently qualified, spare a thought for how daunted they must feel.
Often I hear criticism of students that they graduate “unready” to work in nursing. Increasingly this is put down to the shift to nursing degrees, despite the fact that many nurses still qualified at diploma level. There are nurses who complain that university has not prepared them to tackle the situations they will find in practice.
If you’re mentoring a student or supervising someone who only recently qualified, spare a thought for how daunted they must feel
One alternative is a return to completely vocational training - but is that really the best solution? While it may not disadvantage those who train in a large teaching hospital too much, wouldn’t it make it harder for those training in smaller trusts to be exposed to a range of specialties, the latest equipment and advances in care?
The truth is that university is only half the story. Students and newly qualified nurses rely on their placements and then their supervisors and mentors to increase their knowledge.
Happily, I know there are lots of excellent mentors out there who manage this process and transition well. Our Student Nursing Times Awards opened for entries at the end of last year, and Mentor of the Year is full of excellent role models.
Their input should not to be underestimated - good mentors create good nurses, and bad ones vice versa.
When the reins have to be dropped, the examples set to students will stay with them and guide their practice as well as their attitude.
● Feeling inspired? Then why not enter the Student Nursing Times Awards, the deadline has just been extended to 30 January. There are categories for all students, mentors, placements and teaching providers to enter. Good luck.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed