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'By the end of 1st year, you'll wonder why you ever doubted yourself'

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Laura gave up a good job to follow her dream of becoming a learning disability nurse; at the end of 1st year she knows she made the right decision.


Hello Freshers and welcome to the start of your nursing career!

I have just completed my first year at the University of Salford where I am studying Learning Disability Nursing and Social Work as a mature student (I’m 28).

I gave up a good job to come to university but I can honestly tell you that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I have made so many friends, done really well in my first exam (86%!) and learnt so much.

When you first start, it feels like you are just pretending to be a nurse like you did as a child but once you have completed your first year I can honestly tell you that you begin to feel like a professional practitioner.Your confidence and your abilities improve so much you’ll wonder why you ever doubted yourself.


Outside placement and the lecture theatre

Having a hobby unrelated to nursing is vital to maintain your sanity. During Fresher’s week you’ll find many activities and clubs available; sports, languages, music, comedy, debating to name a few. But remember that the activities you choose do have to be flexible to fit around your shifts on placement. My hobbies are baking, sewing and reading, all of which I can do at home on my own, however you also need friends to get you through so I go to the pub quiz and cinema every week too.

My extra-curricular activities are already ones that enhance my CV, you may think it’s not something that matters until third year but it really does. I am a Caremaker, a Student Quality Ambassador, a Dignity Champion, a Dementia Champion, a Community Circles Facilitator, I’m part of HealthWatch Salford and I have a weekend job as a support worker. I have also learnt basic Makaton and been student rep, curated the university’s nursing Twitter account and written an abstract for the British Journal of Learning Disabilities… all of which will help me get a better job when I leave university as a qualified nurse.


Placements and academia

You do have to be manage your time well though and be prepared to work hard because you won’t just sail through; it sounds obvious but make it your mission from the start to concentrate in lectures, write notes, read around the subject, ask questions, hand in your essays on time, revise for your exams and try things that are outside your comfort zone on placement.

I have had three placements during my time at university: one terrible, one fantastic and one mediocre. But I have learnt from all of them; what to do, what not to do, and what kind of nurse I want to be.

Take responsibility for your own learning, find out what’s out there and go and get what you want. Don’t sit around waiting to be told what to do, take something to read wherever you go, arrange spoke days for things you are interested in, never pretend you understand if you don’t, network with people in other professions and most importantly- don’t think of any task as being beneath you.

Make the most of every opportunity and be friendly, positive and inquisitive. It’s what turns a student nurse into a good nurse.

Good luck to all of you, you will be fantastic!

Laura Platt is in her second year studying Learning Disabilities nursing at Univeristy of Salford

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