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Do student nurses need role models?

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Since we launched Student Nursing Times four years ago, we’ve hosted hundreds of blogs from student nurses who want to share their experiences and advice. Most of these blogs tell stories of overcoming fears but the most heart-felt blogs almost always contain the words “role model”.

But why do student nurses find it so important to have a role model? Is this really a critical part of becoming a “good” nurse?

Like most student nurses, I learnt first-hand what a poor role model looks like. On a community placement, I was assigned a mentor who would frequently tell her colleagues she was in meetings but instead meet her friends for long lunches, visit her daughter or go shopping. Patient care seemed a long-way down her list of priorities.

Did this experience hinder my learning? Absolutely. But at the time I believed this was only because I missed out on patient visits, not because I learnt this was the right way to do things.

Conversely, my next placement was on a psychiatric ICU where my mentor would make me explain to her the purpose of every drug I administered, its side effects and why this drug was likely to have been prescribed.

I learnt a lot about mental health medication, but I learnt even more from watching her communicating with patients that they might have to wait a little longer today as I needed to learn. She did everything thoroughly and her approach gained patients’ respect.

Having a bad role model wasn’t damaging in itself - I knew which of these two nurses I wanted to be like. One who saw nursing as something she did when she had to in order to pay the bills, or one who had patience, excellent communication skills and an awareness of just how much knowledge nurses need to have in order to keep patients safe. I didn’t realise it at the time, but of course the second became my role model from day one of the placement, and I gained so much more.

So our SNT Christmas competition this year isn’t aimed at rewarding student nurses. This year, we’re rewarding the role models who do more than they probably realise to enhance students’ learning.

Student nurses can nominate anyone who has gone the extra mile to make them a better nurse. Find out more and read some of the entries so far here.

And if you’re a student nurse, make sure you put forward that nurse, OT, physiotherapist, doctor or healthcare assistant who at some point in your training has been your role model.

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