Any university degree will be difficult. There is a huge step up from A level or access courses.
Many students live alone, or away from home for the first time. There is a huge amount of pressure on independent learning and essentially becoming an ‘adult’ for the first time and being able to function alone, with much less support than at home.
However, choosing to enter a nursing degree is so much more than learning to function alone. You have to learn to help other people function too.
When you choose to study nursing, you are choosing a career from the time you enter the classroom. There is an emphasis on how you carry yourself, how you act and how you are perceived by the world outside of nursing.
You are expected to be professional and responsible constantly, acting as though you had already qualified as a nurse – despite being three years minimum away from qualifying – rather than a typical university student.
Unlike friends on other courses, lectures will likely be every weekday, varying in length, but sometimes 9-5 for the entire week.
Being a student nurse means that sometimes, the key opportunities at university are something you may have to sacrifice to enter the profession you so desperately want to. This could mean trips abroad, sports or socialising events. To fully achieve the typical student life alongside being a student nurse, good time management is a key skill you learn.
As well as theory sessions, a huge part of nursing is working in clinical practice. The NMC states that to qualify as a nurse, you must have achieved 2,300 hours worth of clinical experience. Per week on placement, you must achieve 37.5 hours to complete your placement, and to move into the following year.
The difference is, while you are working – for free since the bursary was revoked in 2017 – 12.5 hour shifts, your friends have the ability to engage in social activities, which often you miss out on, due to the exhaustion and the stress that follows such long, and often intense shifts.
Often, when a shift has completed, you can either feel on top of the world, or deeply upset and emotionally drained by the things you have seen. There rarely seems to be a grey area of how you feel. Things on the ward you often wish you could unsee, traumas and deaths, or things that are hard for even qualified nurses to understand and process.
However, there will be days where you feel like nothing can get you down. A patient who has been in a lengthy hospital admission, who you have seen the whole way through their recovery, going home. A patient smiling for the first time, and beginning to feel well again. Achieving a skill that terrified you at the beginning of the year, and feeling as though you have made a difference to someone’s life.
On those days, being a student nurse seems all worth it. You forget about the stress and anxiety you felt in other shifts, and the pain of the things you’ve seen, as you know that this is what you are meant to do with your life and you can’t imagine doing anything else.
Although being a student nurse is sometimes exhausting, stressful and at times feels unbearable, we still continue with our studies, despite all the negative things we see, and experience.
To do such an intense course, you have to re-commit to it everyday, knowing that the positives will always outweigh the negatives and you are made to be a nurse.
Brooke-Marie Thomas is a student nurse at De Montfort University